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Law School Privatization: Good Governance in Jeopardy

By on November 14, 2011

We are worried to hear about the plan by the Federal Government to privatize law schools in the country. Some Lawyers of the Nigerian Bar Association have already condemned the plan. They said Law students would be adversely affected by the move; and that these might also reduce the quality of education given to the students.

We understand that privatization is a global political movement which represents the vision to promote more effective governance and better public value. It can help us attract vibrant professors and better infrastructure especially with declining state funding and cash-strapped institutions. What we don’t understand is if our authorities appreciate what is called the irreducible core of government activity. That is the limit to which the provision of justice can be shifted from public to private, as privatization shouldn’t deflect the goals to which our society aspires: good governance and justice.

We think the proposed privatization is ill-advised and a wrong ordering of priorities.  Indeed, in many contexts, privatization can serve to extend those goals by seeking to achieve them more effectively. But not all of government activity can be privatized even when we this is defended as commanding widespread acceptance in some countries abroad.

Also, it policy thrust is sure going to be controversial as previous ones have been lost in controversies as those who gain from previous government support are no longer the legitimate beneficiaries of the new order. This will certainly open the debate over the existence of subsidy (ies) in Law Schools’ funding and management, the extent of its magnitude and the form in which it is provided. We are curious to know. Let government tell us more.

For now, we state here unequivocally that these students cannot afford to pay. Anecdotal evidence points to the fact that the performance of government-owned institution is still better than the private ones. Whatever the motive for this, it is selfish and can erode the few gains from our judiciary so worsening governance and delivery of democratic dividends. The issue with privatization is how far it can be extended. Let’s think towards alternative funding like setting up a private fund raising and smart infrastructure.