Lawyers have an important role to play in the economic development and prosperity of Nigeria because just as economies are underpinned by trade, so is trade underpinned by the fabric of law and the civil justice system, Professor Fidelis Oditah, QC, SAN has said.
He spoke on Tuesday in Lagos at the handover of the Centre for Business Law and Policy of the University of Lagos to the management of the institution. The Centre was refurbished and equipped by the Fidelis Oditah Foundation.
“The extent to which Nigeria can attract business and foreign direct investment depends in part upon investor perception of the quality of our civil and criminal justice system,” he said. “If our system of civil and criminal justice is perceived to be inefficient and ineffective, we would lose out to more efficient and effective systems. A steady neglect or decline in the rule of law in many developing countries has been a major reason for the decline in the development prospects of such countries.”
Prof. Ayodele Atsenua, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the university, described the support to the Centre by Fidelis Oditah Foundation as exciting, saying it will also advance the mandate of the university, which is to grow all opportunities for improving scholarship, and other academic works such as research, teaching and learning.
“What makes it even more exciting is that it is a case of an alumni giving back. We are excited because I will say that alumni are the major stakeholders of the university,” she said. “My message therefore is that 2022 promises to be a better year in the life of this university and I will like to urge the alumni to plan to have some major homecoming .
“Early in the year in the first quota from March 16, the university will be hosting the NUGA games. Additionally, the university will be clocking 60 in October 2022.
“So, we hope that our alumni can use all these platforms to do major homecoming and also give back. Give, not just to the success of these events, but to the growth and development of their alma mater,” she added.
Head, Department of Commercial & Industrial Law of the University of Lagos, Professor Adejoke Oyewunmi, said the approval of the Centre by the management is a sign that the university is ever committed to advance the cause of knowledge to build the society. She said also said the Centre would work to promote the mandate of the university, which is to grow all opportunities for improving scholarship, and other academic works such as research, teaching and learning.
Explaining why he decided to support the take-off of the new centre, Professor Oditah who was enrolled at the law faculty in 1981 as a student said he was motivated by the belief that a collaboration between academic lawyers, practitioners and policymakers is important.
He also said there is an obvious need to strengthen our legal education by putting more money into the educational system at all levels. He said this requires a partnership between the government and Nigerians.
“Almost all the weaknesses in our legal education can be traced directly or indirectly to the chronic under-funding of our institutions – ill-equipped libraries is a function of lack of cash; so is lack of teaching aids, overcrowded classrooms, insufficient teaching staff, absence of computers, etc. Provided legal education is adequately funded, the academic legal education will achieve its aims, as it did in the past,” he said.