“We need to raise the standard of legal education in Nigeria. The standard is too poor and too weak, and we see it in the quality of lawyers that come to our chambers”.[1]

The above were the words of the former chair of the NBA[2] while describing the pitiable state of legal education in Nigeria which is clearly on its death throes. It is saddening that the framework for legal education in the country which has served the country for over five decades appears to be gasping for its last breath. The challenges bedeviling legal education in Nigeria, resulting in the low quality we now have, are multifarious. However, these challenges are not without practical solutions. Thus, against the foregoing backdrop, this paper examines the current day reality of the state of legal education in Nigeria; prospects, challenges and productive way forward for legal education in the country.

For ease of comprehension, this paper will first examine legal education in Nigeria before discussing its challenges and innovative solutions to these impediments respectively.

LEGAL EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: The present form of western legal education in Nigeria is not without strong historical antecedents. Its evolution could be traced to the Unsworth Committee on Higher Education which proposed certain recommendations.[3]

The above, formed the foundations upon which legal education in Nigeria now sits. Essentially, the education of a prospective lawyer commences at the university[4] where he is made to undertake at least twelve compulsory law subjects and several electives.[5]

Note that the legal education at this stage is majorly regulated by the NUC.[6]

The Council of Legal Education (CLE) on the other hand is charged with the legal education of law school students, and the issuance of qualifying certificates to those who passed bar examinations.[7]

  • CHALLENGES OF LEGAL EDUCATION: The problems plaguing legal education in Nigeria include the following:
  • CONSERVATIVE CURRICULUM: Notwithstanding the NUC’s mandate to frequently revise the undergraduate law curricular, the truth is a lot is still left to be desired. Thus, the curriculum in many Nigerian law faculties remains largely uniform and unchanged.[8] The average course offerings in a Nigerian law faculty are only about 40 in contrast to the over 70 offered in foreign universities.[9] Only traditional law courses[10] are being offered in many of our law faculties. Attention is not being paid to emerging areas of law. The consequence of this is that the law graduate of a Nigerian university is not globally competitive in an evolving legal practice. We must bear in mind the words of Friedman who observed thus:

“It would be tragic if the law were so petrified as to be unable to respond to the unending challenge of evolutionary or revolutionary changes in society.”[11]

The” law” as used by Friedman above refers to our own legal curriculum which has failed to respond to societal flux.

  • INADEQUATE FACILITIES: The inadequacy of infrastructural facilities is another challenge of legal education in Nigeria. Most of the lecture theatres have decrepit facilities like poor furniture. This challenge is the most visible among many law faculties. Only very few law faculties in private universities, possess an ICT driven lecture theatre with access to visual apparatus for lectures. This deters students from attending lectures, resulting in poor performances.
  • EXCESS WORK LOAD: Many law faculties in Nigeria are understaffed which has made many lecturers to be burdened with more tasks than they can reasonably undertake. It is not uncommon for law lecturers to handle well over five courses which is being offered by over 300 students[12]. Many law faculties are in breach of the standard student to lecturer ratio of 30:1.[13] Below is a table of the student to lecturer ratio in the five pioneer universities:
UNIVERSITY STUDENTS TOTAL NO. ACADEMIC STAFF NO. DEFICIENCY OF IDEAL RATIO OF 30:1
University of Ibadan 459 35 38%
University of Lagos 987 46 28%  
University of Nigeria Nsukka 1505 38 134%  
Ahmadu Bello University 1458 52.5% 6%
Obafemi Awolowo University 1092 38 3%

Source[14]

The above table clearly shows the staff deficit which is resulting in excess work load for Nigerian law lecturers.

  • TRADITIONAL TEACHING METHODS: Teachers in many of Nigeria’s law faculty do not embrace modern teaching methodologies.[15] Rather many law lecturers stick to the archaic system of note dictating. This has adversely affected the manner which students learn, and hampered quality legal education.
  • PROLIFERATION OF LAW FACULTIES AND BREACH OF ADMISSION QUOTA: Today, there are over 35 law faculties in Nigeria. This has resulted in an increase in the number of students studying law in universities with no corresponding staff increment.[16] This has resulted in low quality of output by overworked academics. Closely allied with the above is the mindless breach of admission quotas by universities. Many Nigerian varsities breach their stipulated admission in excess of over 50 students.[17] This has resulted in the inability of available facilities to cater for student populace.
  • LOW FUNDING: There is no doubt that adequate funding is a prerequisite to a qualitative legal education because quality education is a very expensive enterprise.[18] However in Nigeria, education is generally underfunded and legal education has not proven immune to this scourge. This has made the NLS[19] to increase its tuition to sustain herself internally.[20] Low funding has also made universities lose seasoned teachers who are not adequately remunerated.[21]
  • PROSPECTS OF LEGAL EDUCATION:

Notwithstanding the above challenges, legal education in Nigeria still has the following prospects:

  1. Increased funding
  2. Balanced student to lecturer ratio
  3. Adequate infrastructural facilities
  4. Technology dependent lecture methods
  5. Improved Academic performance.

These prospects cannot come to fruition without workable solution proffered hereunder.

  • PRODUCTIVE WAY FORWARD: Accordingly,  this paper has proposed a FIVE FINGER APPROACH which embodies the following:
  • INDEPENDENT CURRICULUM REVIEW: Independent curriculum review, means that law faculties should be given latitude to review subjects which they offer annually. Thus, apart from the compulsory courses already approved by the CLE as pre-requisites for law school admission, faculties should be given power to introduce course which reflect societal change. This will equip the 21st century Nigerian law graduate with the knowledge for today’s legal market and also eliminate the tardiness associated with the NUC curriculum review.
  • PENALTY FOR BREACH OF QUOTA: Many Nigerian universities are in breach of admission quotas. A solution to this challenge is the imposition of penalties like the suspension of the faculty programme, and in extreme cases, disaccreditation of repetitive offenders. This will ensure that the already existing infrastructural and human facilities can cater for the students pending the expansion of facilities. Additionally, this will ensure a balanced lecturer to student ratio.
  •  IMPROVED FUNDING: A scholar in showing the correlation between low funding and low quality of legal education had this to say:

The NUC has no moral justification for prescribing minimum standards which must be attained by the very faculties that are starved of funds necessary for attaining those standards”[22]

Considering the above, government should increase its allocation to the educational sector. This should translate into better infrastructural facilities which will improve legal education. Coupled with this, improved funding will guarantee higher remuneration for law lecturers, which will in turn increase motivation and attract high quality man power which will reduce lecturers work load.

  • INCORPORATION OF ICT[23] INTO TEACHING: Although the Nigerian law school is changing the manner in which law is taught through the introduction of PowerPoint presentations by students, this could still be improved. Universities should have standard legal data bases which will aid research for both students and lecturers alike.[24]  Video conferencing holds a lot of promise in this regard. It helps to add comparative flavor in the curricula as international speakers could share their resource to students and lecturers in developing countries like Nigeria. This will improve academic performance of students.
  • CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION:  According to Henry Ford;

“He who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young”[25]

Premised on the above, the place of continuous learning cannot be overemphasized in order to ensure relevance of students and practitioners alike. This will ensure that legal practitioners do not lose touch with modern realities of a competitive legal practice. Professional examinations in emerging areas[26] of law should be introduced, and the fees should be subsidized to encourage enrolment.

  • CONCLUSION: This paper has examined legal education and its challenges in Nigeria. It has also provided workable solutions to obviate impediments to legal education in Nigeria. It is hoped that this work will contribute to the body of scholarly works which explains how education of lawyers can be improved in Nigeria, thus improving legal practice.

Conclusively, in revamping our legal education, we must not forget the words of Justice Onalaja who emphasized that:

“A lawyer can only be as good as the system of legal education that produced him.”[27]

Disu Damilare is a 300 Level Student of the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife. Damilare won the inaugural Olaniran Quadri Essay Competition organised by the OAU Law Students Society (LSS) in honour of the late Olaniran Quadri, a past president of the LSS who was loved by all. Lawyard is pleased to be associated with the competition and to publish this winning essay written by Damilare.


[1]Guardian.ng/features/nba-president-mahmoud-laments-quality-of-nations-legal-education/amp(last accessed 5:26pm, 13th day of December, 2018)

[2] Nigerian Bar Association

[3] The following recommendations were made; (1) Nigeria should establish its own system of legal education; (2) A law school to be known as the Nigerian Law School, be established in Lagos to provide vocational training to legal practitioners as barristers and solicitors.(3) The qualification for admission to legal practice in Nigeria should be a degree in law of any university whose course is recognized by the Council of Legal Education, and the vocational course as prescribed by the council.; and (4) A Council of Legal Education should be established. See generally Legal Education and Challenges of Contemporary Developments in Nigeria; Bagan A. Bukar, International journal of clinical legal education. See also the Report of the Committee on the Future of the Nigerian Legal Profession (Lagos, Federal Government Press, 1959)

[4] A.O. Obilade, Nigerian Legal System

[5] These courses include; Legal Methods,  Constitutional Law, Law of Contract, Criminal Law, Commercial Law, Equity and Trusts, Law of Evidence, Land Law, Nigerian Law of Torts, Nigerian legal System, Jurisprudence and Law of Business Associations

[6] The National Universities Commission periodically reviews the undergraduate law courses to be offered by students in order to ensure that the law curriculum meets the current needs of an ever changing society. See S.4 &18 of the NUC Act Cap.N81 &E3 LFN, 2004. See also NUC Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard which requires curriculum review every five years.

[7] S.1(2) of the Legal Education Consolidation Act

[8] Ibid. pg. 132

[9] According to a survey of legal education and admission to the bar 1992-2002, the average number of course offerings in a law faculty in U.S.A is not less than 84.

[10] Such as land law, constitutional law, contract law etc.

[11][11] W. Friedman: Law in a changing Society, ( Stevens & Sons 1959)

[12] Ibid pg. 136

[13] Abaud.edu.ng/10069-2/ (last accessed 5:21am, 14th of December, 2018)

[14] “Rethinking Essential Toolkits of Legal Education in Nigeria”; being a lecture delivered by Dr. Tahir Mamman (director general of Nigerian law school) on the occasion of founder’s week at Afe Bbabalola University on Monday, 20th day of February, 2012. For electronic access, see; abuad.edu.ng/10069-2/ (last accessed, 5:34am, 14th day of December, 2018)

[15] Such as power point interactive session, submission of online assignments within a specific time frame, online lectures etc. Ibid. pg. 134

[16] Ibid. pg. 132

[17] Abuad.ed.ng/10069-2/

[18] Aare Afe Babalola made the remark at the commencement of the 48th conference of the Nigerian association of law teachers conference in Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti. www.abuad.edu.ng/babalola-advocates-council-of-legal-education-to-be-examining-body-only- (last accessed 2:03pm, 14th of December, 2018)

[19] Nigerian Law School

[20] The consequence of this is that many law students have to borrow loans to attend NLS

[21] C.O. Okonkwo, ‘ A Historical overview of legal education in Nigeria. “

[22] H.Umozurike & F. Nlerum, “National universities commission minimum standards and legal education in Nigeria” in proceedings of the 30th annual conference of the Nigerian association of law teachers held at Gateway Hotel, Ijebu-Ode (27th-28th, April, 1992)

[23] Information and communication technology

[24] A good example is LEXIS and WESTLAW which is used in many advanced countries.

[25] www.brainyquote.com (last visited 3:00pm, Jan. 1st, 2019)

[26] Sports law, entertainment law, health law etc.

[27] Hon Justice M.O. Onalaja, paper, Problem of Legal Education in Nigeria. He was of the opinion that; “Legal education-academic as well as vocational is a vital ingredient that affects the quality of our justice system and the role of lawyers in the political, economic and social development of our country. We see this daily in relation to litigation where the role of lawyers is most visible. The quality of judicial decisions and the coherence of of the reasoning underlying a judgment depend upon the quality of argument presented to the court and upon the ability of the judge. All these depend upon the quality of our legal education”

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