NOUN, FHC and the new judgment date

 Everything with a beginning also has an end. The law graduates of the National Open University of Nigeria, were shut out since 2013 from the Nigerian Law School for vocational training by the Council of Legal Education, despite the National Universities Commission’s accreditation. The graduates had futilely approached all relevant authorities for succour, and lastly perched at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, inter alia, for writ of mandamus.

Regrettably, three years counting, at the same court. Justice B. O. Quadri heard the case after numerous adjournments but never showed up for judgment on January 27 as scheduled. Neither a communication nor new date was allocated until after four months of concerted commotions by the graduates.  Suddenly, the baton was transferred to Justice H.I.O. Oshomah leading to another hearing on July 5, and unswervingly, Prof. Abiodun Amuda-Kannike, SAN, lead counsel to the graduates conscientiously maintained his positions on points of law.

After that, a new date for judgment, October 4 was fixed. The question is; has the end come? Will the judgment hold this time or repetition of the former? The court is the temple of justice, and should always display justice irrespective of whose ox is gored. A situation where a court after hearing, schedules a judgment but inexplicably fails to deliver, is inconsistent with justice and judicial process. Incontestably, that is an aberration and meanness, and could snowball into loss of confidence and cynicism. Meanwhile, a leadership tussle in the PDP that commenced afterwards was concluded in a space of 14 months up to the apex court while students’ case hops heterogeneously for three years.

Conventionally, matters relating to education deserve premium attention with accelerated actions. To daringly subject students’ affairs to unending years in court is abysmal and unacceptable; the financial implications notwithstanding, with two different hearings at the same trial court. In a nutshell, the burlesques obviously signpost the nation’s pintsized commitment to education.

By precedent, suppose the whys and wherefores are too weighty to ignore, equitably, students cannot be jeopardised as innocent third-parties. In such a scenario, the doctrine of bona fide purchaser for value without notice the court perspicaciously laid down per Lord Denning in Bishopsgate Motor Finance Corporation Ltd v Transports Breaks Ltd (1949) E.R. 37 at pg 45; (1945) 1 K. B322 at 336, and meritoriously espoused in Omosanya v Anifowoshe (1995) 4 FSC 99 at pg 94, by Mbanefo F.J. can astutely guide.

Interestingly, the CLE punctiliously embraced the doctrine in similar issues against Madonna University; the same noncompliance to standard, inadequate physical and learning-facilities. In a statement for exonerating its existing law students, the Council unequivocally stated, “this was done to ensure that students did not suffer for the indiscipline of their institution”. I decline to conjure up the noble body with double-standards. Nonetheless, is it justifiable for NOUN students to become the grass that suffers where two elephants fight? Clearly, the Council synergised the NUC for resolutions on the private university, unlike NOUN’s; the two giants are enigmatically, diametrically opposing each other.

Pragmatically, a university’s programme cannot be certifiably accredited and contemporaneously disapproved; otherwise, a gross contradiction. It is bizarre shutting the doors against qualified students from an accredited university while accreditation subsists. Administratively, the appropriate step where accreditation is perceived unjustifiable or inconsistent to standard is to liaise, and approach the NUC for review or protest to superior authorities for intervention. Precisely, accreditation clears universities as institutions, but doesn’t extend to personality’s traits which fall under ancillary requirements. Any student found guilty on gross misconduct may be dismissed irrespective of university’s accreditation as held by Court of Appeal in Okonjo v Council of Legal Education FCA/16/78 (1979) Digest of Appeal Cases 28. By hierarchy, professional bodies report to the NUC as the regulator, and therefore cannot override its actions. Thus, with the NUC’s subsisting accreditation of NOUN’s law programme, it remains valid until a contrary deed.

The onus therefore lies squarely with the court; ultimate arbiter, since the Senate’s recent amendments were regrettably snubbed. The populace looks forward for the conclusion of the prolonged quagmire, as students that spent resources on an accredited programme in a national institution cannot perpetually remain in a dilemma. Amazingly, the CLE publicly admitted granting waivers magnanimously and repetitively to a law student from another university with alleged copious gross misconduct but denied innocent NOUN students opportunity to prove their worth. Yet again, conceded that a graduate from conventional university with requisite training and etiquettes was ethically unfit. This is a paradox and self-indictment. By and large, the October 4 scheduled judgment, come rain or shine, must hold, and explicitly. Delayed justice is synonymous with injustice. According to Martin Luther King Jr, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

Culled from Punch

About Correspondent

Check Also

Dangote Wins ECOWAS’ Manufacturing Brand Of The Year; Shines At Abuja Trade Fair

Africa’s largest business conglomerate, Dangote Industries Limited has been adjudged the Outstanding Indigenous Conglomerate of …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *