The controversy over the ban on the Law Faculty of Baze University, Abuja, has continued to generate debate among stakeholders in the legal profession and the polity.
Some have attributed the ban to political affiliation of the founder, Datti Baba-Ahmed while others see it as a good development for the future of legal profession in the country.
During the electioneering campaign, Baba-Ahmed, who was the running mate of Mr. Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of Labour Party in the last presidential elections, criticized the policy of the government and promised to turn the economy of the country around.
Since the controversy over the ban began, there have been divided opinions among stakeholders over the action against the university’s law faculty.
The Council of Legal Education, (CLE), placed a five-year ban on the Faculty of Law of Baze University, Abuja, over allegations that it violated quota of admission.
The imposition of the ban was sequel to the findings of the CLE which showed that the university’s Law Faculty was currently having a backlog of over 347 law students waiting to be admitted into the Nigerian Law School.
According to CLE, Baze University have consistently violated its admission quota of 50 students per session as approved by the council.
Specifically, the Law Faculty of the school is currently having a backlog of over 347 law students waiting to be admitted into the Nigerian Law School, occasioned by admitting over 750 law students which ordinarily would have taken about 15 years of admission based on the quota allotted to the University.
Consequence to the above, the Acting Secretary and Director of Administration of the Nigerian Law School, Ms Aderonke Osho, proceeded to announce the five years ban to nip the development in the bud.
The council’s resolution was reached at its Quarterly Meeting held on November 23, 2023, by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) presided over by its Chairman, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, OFR where they considered the report of the Accreditation panel to the Faculty of Law, Baze University, Abuja.
The Director-General, Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Hayatu Chiroma, SAN, led panel findings held that: Baze University consistently and most flagrantly had contravened its admission quota of 50 students per session as approved by the Council of Legal Education with the result that the Faculty is currently having a backlog of over 347 law students waiting to be admitted into the Nigerian Law School.
“Since 2017 the Council of Legal Education had grappled with the excesses of Baze University by admitting over 750 law students which ordinarily would have taken about 15 years of admission based on the quota allotted to the University.
“Baze University runs a three (3)-year LL.B programme for some UTME candidates without the approval of National Universities Commission (NUC), Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB and Council of Legal Education.”
The statement further noted that “Under the NUC Minimum Benchmark Academic Standard (BMAS) for law degree programme in Nigerian Universities, Law is a five (5)-year programme for UTME candidates and four (4)-year for Direct Entry students.
“The Council of Legal Education after thorough consideration of these infractions resolved as follows: The imposition of a moratorium on admission of law students to the Faculty of Law, Baze University, Abuja, with immediate effect;
“The moratorium will last in the first instance for a period of 5 years and may be renewed if no satisfactory action is taken to remedy the situation.
“The Council, in the interest of the innocent students, parents and guardians will use the 5 year period to find ways to deal with the backlog of law students admitted by Baze University in excess of its admission quota.
“Follow-up visits will be paid to the University to ascertain the extent of the measures it has taken to remedy the anomalies observed during the accreditation visit.
“The National Universities Commission (NUC), Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Parents, guardians, prospective applicants and members of the public are hereby put on notice on the status of Baze University Abuja and its faculty of Law.”
Implications on the university’s image and on the future of the affected students:
The disclosure and successive sanction may bring to question the validity of the degree certificates of graduated students and some prominent politicians who undertook law programmes at the university within the 2017-2023 window.
However, People in the know expressed that those already graduated are safe. They maintained that the de-accreditation did not also effect those who are still in the school, but further admissions into the faculty.
Moreover, it is said that the current and graduated students couldn’t have started without accreditation, dismissing the argument that the people they graduated are affected.
According to Lateef Ibrahim, a law graduate and awaiting call to bar, the implications are that parents and guardians may not take the school serious anymore and may start withdrawing their children/wards from the University to others.
The CLE/NLS vis-a-vis the public may start seeing the affected university as non-conformist/lawless organisation, which, obviously is not good for its image both within and outside.
Also, the affected students stand the risk of waiting for years before getting admission to the NLS and before being called to the Nigerian bar.
Among these prominent politicians who graduated from the school are Dino Melaye, Rotimi Amaechi, Ifeanyi Ubah, and Osita Chidoka.
Melaye, the governorship candidate of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 Kogi State governorship election, is one of the alumni of Baze University.
The former Kogi West senator bagged an LLB, in Law from the university in 2021.
Ifeanyi Ubah, the senator representing Anambra State South and former governorship candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), also studied law at Baze University.
Ubah, in 2021, bagged a degree in Law from the Faculty of Law at Baze University.
Chidoka, a prominent politician from Anambra state and former aviation minister, graduated with an LLB Second Class Upper from the University.
Amaechi, the former transportation minister, similarly graduated from Baze varsity in 2022.
The duration of the degree programmes undertaken by the named politicians also remains to be ascertained.
Lawyers described the ban as a way of protecting the future of the law profession, describing the development as a right step in the right direction.
Barrister Sani Abubakar, the council of legal education has the monopoly of managing legal education and unless you can show that any decision they took in any particular case is outside their statutory power, it is very difficult to fault them in this case,
He added that unless you can point to provision of the Council or legal practitioner Act, they are violating, the decision should be applauded, adding that it is a square peg on a square hole.
“It is very important that the standard should be set as high as possible and if that is all the council is trying to do, so be it. People are even complaining that lawyers are no longer well trained and you can’t be producing half-baked lawyers.
“If they say Baze University committed infractions, they should do the needful. Baze is a big private university, we have people like Sam Amadi former chairman of National Electricity Regulatory Commission, NEIC, a first class material from the University Calabar and first class from Harvard University. Amadi is an insider in the Baze University and teaches Law there.
“Anything that could be done to sanitize the profession and always raise the bar of scholarship and academic of lawyers should be applauded and encouraged instead of being discouraged.
“What are they doing with all the millions they are making? Let them make the necessary change to make the commission to approve it.
“Whether you are a lawyer or not, you are not exempted when one half-baked lawyer commit an offence.
You will see lawyers in court that cannot speak English and can’t even write a letter.
”I don’t see the reason for complain unless it is a case of victimization because of politics. Assuming it is the whole university that has been de-accredited by the National University Commission, we can begin to read meanings to the move but in this case, it is just the law faculty.
“Baze University is not a mushroom university, the owner have a reputation to protect. He is a serious minded person, somebody that once aspired to be the vice president of this country.”
Another legal practitioner, Barrister Festus Onifade, said the ban is not an unusual thing.
According to him, the council is saddle with the responsibility of regulating admission quota for Nigerian universities, adding that other universities who flaunted the council regulations have suffered similar fate.
Furthermore, he explained that while law is five years, medicine is seven years, then architecture is five years, they are prescribed time for each courses in Nigeria Universities, five years for regular in law and if you go through direct entry it is four years.
”The CLE gave Baze University 50 slot of students per session. But reports indicate that Baze University
”The implications is that the faculty of law of Baze University having over 750 students backlog is that the graduate student will have to take their turn to be admitted to law school until the expiration of five years ban’
“Dino Melaye went in 2021 graduated in 2023, Osita Chidoka the same thing, Ifeanyi Uba the same thing, we can count them.
“I am not seeing it as the real issue, whether or not you can graduate students in three years, you can’t in a law degree. The year that is required to acquire law degree according to the University Commission is five years. The commission is the one who set out the calendar of each courses, they detail curriculum and how they should be run in all Nigeria Universities.
“Is it proper that somebody will go to university, even if he has gone through direct entry and spend three years, it is completely improper, something is wrong and I think strongly that the ban is as a result of those political students that graduated acquired law degrees from the Universities.
Lateef Ibrahim, our earlier contributor, aligned with the CLE. He noted that politicians and notable Nigerians now find the school as a fertile ground to acquire law degree in three years through the back door.
Ibrahim opined that agreement must be adhered to/honoured/respected letteredly, noting that if there is a breach on the side of any of the parties, that’s the kind of thing(s) that you get.
“Running three semesters in a year as against two by other universities is strange, no doubt. That, i believe, is where Baze University’s problem started from.
“When you are in Rome, you behave like Romans. A law has no other name but law. It must be respected. You don’t pick and choose which law to respect and which one to circumvent.
Alleged Political Witch-hunt:
Meanwhile, political watchers are alleging political witch-hunting in the development as Datti Baba Ahmed, being the owner/founder of the said university.
It has been described to have political undertone stemming from the just concluded 2023 National election.
Reacting to that effect, the Labour Party (LP) described the action of the CLE as an attempt to impugn the integrity of its vice presidential candidate.
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