interviewBy Ibrahim Abdul'aziz
Yola — Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Dr Tahir Mamman, from Michika, Adamawa State, was at the University of Maiduguri for 17 years before he joining the NLS as pioneer Deputy Director General, Kano Campus. When there was vacancy in Abuja for the position of DG, Law School, he got it and he has been there for about seven years now. In this interview, he speaks on the golden jubilee of the NLS and sundry issues.
What are your challenges as DG Law School?
First of all, as you know, Nigeria Law School was one of the oldest institutions in Nigeria. This year, 2013, the school will clock 50 years and as expected of any old organisation, there are a number of challenges that need to be looked at. One, it started as a single institution in Lagos and now has six campuses in Nigeria and so for the school which provides educational training for lawyers you will have the challenges of maintaining standard across the campuses. You should have lecturers who are committed and have sound academic background across all the campuses; you have to ensure that programmes are delivered promptly as at when due and these programmes too, have to meet present day needs of the profession and the society. As well as even chart the course of future direction for development of the law.
One will also have challenges of structures, because you have to ensure that facilities obtained in one campus are fairly available and in equal measure in other campuses.
As you know also, the Law School also accommodates graduates across the world, so when you have people with qualifications from abroad especially from Europe coming to your school, they come with different perspectives and expectations, so, you shouldn't be that different from what they were used to.
So, these are some of the key challenges that we are grappling with and of course even managing resources is another thing.
So, we have Law School here in Adamawa, but it is yet to take off, what is the cause of the delay?
There is really no problem. As you know, it takes a while for infrastructure to be put in place. Of course, people are citing Bayelsa that was approved the same time with that of Yola, but as you know Adamawa and Bayelsa are not equally endowed. Adamawa doesn't have enough resources, so it is taking its time along with other competing interests and of course the NJC has come in to support the state government. But the happy thing is that by this January the Yola campus will take-off. We have already admitted students. For now we have admitted about 250 students, you know we have to start gradually to avoid crowding. The facility on ground can conveniently accommodate students.
In what direction do you want law to go in Nigeria?
I will be happy to see a legal system which is in harmony with our livelihood; with our custom and culture, that is really what I want to see and that is why in the recent time I have been pointing out to academics in Nigeria that we are doing some disservice to this country. Because there is globalisation and internalisation in our affairs, therefore we must get something that we can give to other parts of the world, also. We are richly endowed in terms of our culture, so we should be doing a lot of research in that direction.
Secondly, we have to prepare students and practitioners for this global community. There are so many interfaces among campuses around the world now, hence legal framework for international transaction and we must take advantage of this opportunity. The best example of it is that European law firms are working in partnership with local practitioners in other parts of the world like Asia, America, etc., with local law firms, but we are not seeing much of that here. So, this is the kind of direction that we want to see happening, as quick as possible.
Then, we will also like to see big firms, not the kind of small law firms that we are seeing with one, two or three lawyers that somehow reduce their capacity to participate in the world legal system. So we want to see mega firms in Nigeria where you have 200-400 lawyers because we have very good, capable hands that could run such firms.
What is your take on constitutional role of traditional rulers?
Really, to me it's a mistake actually the way our constitution was crafted after 1963. After the first republic we jettisoned the constitutional role of our traditional institution. To me, they deserve constitutional role, because everybody sees their value and role in maintaining peace and unity.
Do you subscribe to abolition of death penalty?
Yes, if we have a fair system I don't have problem with that. Once we have a fair criminal justice system there wouldn't be problem.
In the past judges were respected, but things started changing, what is really happening? Or is the bench in Nigeria not meeting expectations?
Well, you say in the past. I am not aware that the respect is degrading. I think just as the society is becoming more conscious of its responsibility and people are getting more enlightened viz some of the problems being noticed as they apply to the judiciary. For instance, delay in trial, cost of litigation, and some level of corruption which people are expressing concern about and absence of IT in judiciary. Some people are even complaining about the quality of the judges. These are some of the complaints people are voicing out, but that should not mean judges should be disrespected.
Many are arguing that for the judiciary to be reformed, the issue of Salami has to be resolved, do you agree?
I don't think so, the problem Salami has is just like a family squabble that shouldn't have been taken out of the family. If you take your dispute outside the family then all other interests will definitely come in, then the problem will be compounded and become more complicated and that's really the lesson from it.
In the UK, judges are appointed from SAN, do you think this could be possible in Nigeria?
Well, the larger issue is that judges should be recruited from the bench and also from outside the bench, to get the best. We have very able, committed lawyers out there who didn't start a carrier from magistracy for instance. So those people should get into the bench of course at the High Courts and some people even suggest Court of Appeal.