Nigeria ranks 99 out of 100 countries on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index. This index checks how the economic, education and health system and policies in a country support its talents to fulfil potential, innovate, compete and grow globally.
What the ranking shows is that, as far as education and equipping citizens with the necessary tools to thrive, Nigeria lags.
The standard of education generally, and legal education in particular, has, especially in recent years, consistently failed to compete with internationally accepted standards.
To qualify to practise law in Nigeria an individual must hold a Bachelors Degree in law and complete mandatory vocational training at the Nigerian Law School. At the undergraduate level the law programme takes five years and, at this stage, it is expected that students will have been introduced to the rubric of lawyering, gained basic substantive knowledge of the law and identified the values and dispositions consonant with the fundamental purpose of the legal profession.
The Nigerian Law School focuses on procedural law and aims to equip students with the professional skills required to succeed in the legal profession.
But, beyond the challenges of infrastructure and the standard of education in Nigerian Universities and the Nigerian Law School a much greater challenge, in my view, lies in the curriculum and the methods employed in teaching. In Nigeria today and, in fact, many countries in Africa, the education system is training people for jobs that won’t exist in a couple of years. The curriculum for legal education in Nigeria, as presently designed, does not take into account the realities of legal practice in the 21st century. Often times, even after students graduate from the law school and begin to practise law, they have to unlearn a lot of things and go the extra mile to learn more useful skills and knowledge, through online courses, seminars and other forms of legal training. To put this in context, I am not aware that there is any Nigerian university that has programmes or courses designed to focus on niche areas of law such as alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, conciliation), technology, entertainment law, competition and anti-trust law, etc.
To stay ahead of the curve, I believe it is important that the curriculum both at the university and the Nigerian Law School is redesigned to better reflect the contemporary needs of 21st century legal practice and society. The world is witnessing disruption in many fields, especially with the emergence of technology. Globally, legal practice is evolving with new opportunities to build capacity and expertise in emerging areas springing up. Therefore, the methods and strategies in legal education must change and evolve with the tide or else the profession will soon be inundated with impostors incapable of living up to their qualification due to poor academic and vocational training.
For any educational system to remain globally competitive it is important to equip students with the right combination of sound knowledge, useful skills (for the present and the future) and the right level of exposure.