If you intend to practice as a lawyer in Nigeria, you must go through the Nigerian Law School (NLS). If you have attained an undergraduate degree in a foreign university, then you must submit yourself to Bar 1. This is a 3 month period during which you will be schooled on the fundamentals of the Nigerian Legal System. After you have passed Bar 1, you will proceed to Bar 2 where you will join the rest of your Nigerian schooled counterparts. If you are Nigerian and a lawyer, you probably already know this but I write this for the benefit of non lawyers and non-Nigerians.
So 5 things you must know about the NLS Bar Part 1.
- FORGET EVERYTHING YOU LEARNT ABOUT JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS
This is the absolute ultimate fundamental cardinal rule to surviving law school- FORGET ALL YOU KNOW ABOUT FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE! I did not use all those synonyms for nothing friend! Nobody cares about what is just and what is fair. Almost everyone you meet will as a matter of right trample upon your most basic human rights and expect, rather mandate you do NOT to put up any protest. Now this might sound confusing for 2 reasons.
Firstly, you have spent 3 years of your undergraduate education grappling with the vague and elusive but fundamental legal concepts JUSTICE and FAIRNESS. Through battling sleep and headache and heartache in Jurisprudence class, Legal theory, Human Rights and Public law classes, you come up with fairly acceptable fundamental definitions. You come out of University, your eyes wide with excitement to implement these concepts especially in your country where these terms are not evident except in the dictionary. So being asked to forget everything you know about these terms is confusing and quite frankly alarming.
Secondly, NLS is an institute of legal learning- it could be termed the foremost institute of legal knowledge for without it, no lawyer is or has been (VERY FEW EXCEPTIONS but that is the job of your legal systems lecturer – not mine). No lawyer; SAN or Chief Judge, can practice in the country without passing through and exiting its gates. Therefore you would expect that the standards of fairness, equity, justice, amongst others, which the legal profession holds dear would salute you every morning as you awake and tuck you into sleep as your head hits the pillow. If that is your impression. I enjoin you to please engage in more productive use of your time and mind.
NLS Bar Part 1 will try you in ways you have never fathomed. From
- being told that the bites scattered across your body cannot be bed bug bites from the infested hostel mattress because the doctor who diagnosed had not conducted a physical examination of the mattress to ascertain the presence of such bed bugs (never mind that a doctor who diagnoses you of malaria need not conduct a physical examination of the room to ascertain the presence of female anopheles mosquitoes in your room)
- to being told when you complain of snake infested dormitory (The Boys Hostel interestingly named ‘Afghanistan’) that you should be tolerant as you are the one encroaching on the snake’s natural habitat
- to being called Batman by school officials for wearing a billowy top, and still being sent back to the hostel to change said top even after putting a blazer over it
- to being told to take out a full head of dreadlock braids before classes the next day because they made you look like Rihanna’s back up singer and not a lawyer,
- to having your name crossed off the attendance for an entire week for signing with a green pen (apparently you are expected to know that black and blue pens are the only ink colours acceptable to lawyers- for signing attendance! Accountants use green pens! Well we learn everyday, don’t we?)
- to having your phone sitting in your hand seized by a lecturer who walks in a full hour ahead of his class (moral of the lesson- don’t come early to class? Still trying to decode that).
There will be various trying times. In all of these, be strong and of good courage and above all non-confrontational. Stoop to conquer!
There is a joke people we Nigerians make about ourselves, Mr ABC travels to China for 3 days and returns with an American accent. Extrapolate this joke to Bar 1. Bar 1 will be made up entirely of people who have spent at least 3 years (it takes at least 3 years to complete an undergraduate law degree) of their lives outside of the shores of Nigeria- and you know what that means- there will be a litany of accents floating around the classroom. I choose to group them in the following categories
Pure Britico/ Americana Accent – Now these are the people who have spent all or almost all of their lives in Britain or England and cannot even if their lives depend on this, speak without a British or American accent. This is a small percentage of the ‘Britico/Americana’ accents you will hear in Bar 1. And usually after the initial gra gra of screaming when they talk, we soon get used to them and becoming accepting of them.
The same cannot be said for the By Force Britico/Americana Accent. These also represent a significantly higher percentage of the class, but still a small percentage as opposed to the litany of accents. Listening to these people talk is like doing your worst chore; very very painful and often incredibly embarrassing. They struggle to roll their tongue and make their words airy and light; they try hard to suppress the heavier Nigerian tongues which they have been born with. The struggle is obvious and hence we call then by force Britico/Americana. You easily spot these people by the number of ‘errrrr’s and ahhhhhh’s they have in between simple phrases. My nameee (errrr) is (errrr) Nicky (errrr). This accent is often not sustainable and it isn’t unusual to hear it slip up and sometimes fall into correct warri pidgin when they are bargaining for food or asking for their change at mammy market! The class forever reacts aggressively to these people each time they pick up the microphone (and they love the sound of their voice so they often go for it) by screaming, hissing, banging armrests and throwing mini tantrums.
The I have been Accent – This is the accent majority of the class has. It is that accent which is still very Nigerian but punctuated with a bit of phonetics. Because this is where majority of the class standards, the class is tolerant of these accents, especially after a presentation, this accent welcomes claps and cheers.
The Forever Loyal Nigerians – These are the Okonjo Iweala’s of the class. They might have spent even more time abroad than the By Force Britico/Americana but they speak with the same degree of flavour as our ancestors. They have no time and strength to roll their tongue. The majority of these are older igbo men and their accents were viscous thick and their mannerisms completely the same.
- NIGERIAN-NESS OF OUR LAWS
I think this is an important thing that is not talked about because well not many people talk about the academic aspects of Bar part 1 because if we are being honest there is almost no such thing. (Okay if we are being completely honest there is such a thing actually but only the week before exams!). Before the final week of exams, all you need to do is show up to classes and sign attendance, or if you have (good) friends they can help you to sign the attendance while you sleep off the hangover from clubbing in town the night before.
So why do I say it is important to know about this? If you are like me who doesn’t like to leave the academics to the week before exams, that is – you actually like to follow what is being said in class, then a lot of things would confuse you at first. Also, if you decide to leave everything to last minute, you must also understand some little principles so that you don’t start to question whether or not your parents wasted valuable hard currency sending you to school outside the country.
This little excerpt is just to tell you that many things about our laws do not make any form of sense- at first. I mean for example you would be very confused and find it very hard to grasp the fact that ‘all land in a State is vested in the Governor of that State’ therefore every State government is the chief and original landlord of the land in that State.’ To be fair, this is not an entirely fair example because Land/Property Law is generally a terribly difficult course to comprehend in almost any jurisdiction. (It is where the money is too so…….). But prepare your mind for the Nigerianness of our laws, to grammatical errors in statute books and inconsistencies rife and thriving even in the Constitution. Prepare your mind too for evidence law because that shit makes no damn sense – at least in Bar Part 1!
This is the only thing in Bwari that reminds law school students of their time outside of the country. Built to double as a restaurant and a a bar/club, official hookup zone of Bwari Abuja. In case you are not aware, you will be thrust in the middle of no-where in Abuja (to think I was actually super excited to move to Nigeria and live in Abuja and live my best life….chile!) Lovitos is what serves as everything. It is where a poor and sweet vegan soul like me thought I could go and ask for a meat free meal being that it is the only place that looked like civilization might have brushed past it as it qucikly hurried past that town! I got a ‘meat free’ pasta meal alright…..WITH SAUSAGES! The waitress didn’t seem to understand why I was so frustrated because ‘there is no meat in the plate now?’ It is the place you are most likely to get taken on a date for some ‘privacy’ if you are not determined enough to drive into town. Lovitos is where the Friday and Saturday parties are at. It is the scene of the last party after Bar 1 exams where if you go all day without eating and stressing for your exams, and after a few shots of what you don’t know, you might end up slow whining with the annoying Nigerian-American guy in your class you can’t stand – the guy who raised hell over the cafeteria owing him N10. Lovitos is a beautiful place filled with regrets and memories that must be suppressed.
Listen ladies! I speak for ladies because I do not know about the men. But ladies…….LISTEN! The favourite button on your phone will quickly become ‘the block button’. And honestly it doesn’t matter how kind and sweet and friendly your disposition is (I am as sweet as they come). It is close to impossible as a Bar 1 student to leave your room without encountering some guy who is trying to get your number, buy your meal or walk you back to the hostel (because you suddenly have gotten blind and can’t find the way by which you came again.) Listen I am not even talking about purposeful approaches – just random approaches with the stupidest pick up lines. I mean I had a guy approach me TWICE at the same exact spot -I had to remind me that we had done this before, that he has my number and YES when he calls I do not pick the calls and will not pick the calls. So ladies, the guys will approach you, YES THEY WILL. And honey, I know you are a babe, and you are fit and snatched! But it has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above! Nope they approach you because you are new meat in the wilderness of Bwari and you are easier to prey on than their Bar 2 colleagues! Men of all sorts will approach you, you will quickly learn to be deaf, to walk super swiftly or to use your block button because sometimes it is easier to give them your number and walk away than to pretend to be deaf.
P.S. It might be too late for us but we can at least laugh about it: Don’t be a lawyer
I wrote this a while ago! I have been out of law school for 3 years now but I still feel the need to publish because 1. memories 2. for those who come behind 3. to share with those very very ‘unprivileged’ to be lawyers or attend the Nigerian Law School.