NBA vs El-Rufai: Kaduna Governor reacts as MURIC, Jigawa branch call for Northern boycott

Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has described the withdrawal of invitation to speak at the annual general meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), as an “unfortunate embrace of injustice”.

NBA withdrew the invitation following an outcry by some lawyers who said the governor stands against what the profession represents.

In a statement issued on his behalf by his spokesman, Muyiwa Adekeye, the governor said despite the withdrawal of the invitation, he will continue to make his voice heard on the things the country needs to do to make progress.

“While the decision about who speaks at its event is clearly the NBA’s, Malam El-Rufai wishes to make clear that he did not seek the platform and is not agitated that he has one less speaking engagement,” the statement read.

“However, the circumstances of the last few days warrant some comments. That a professional organisation has elected to endorse a one-sided narrative on a profound national issue is something that its members may wish to reflect upon.

“For an association, whose bread and butter is about justice, to make a ruling based on the stridency of people who lampoon judicial processes against certain individuals without hearing the other side is odd. It bears noting that in its response to pressure, the NBA leadership has signalled an unfortunate embrace of injustice, unfairness, absence of fair hearing and total disregard for the rule of law.”

The governor also said he would respond appropriately to the alleged defamation in the petition filed against him.

In a petition to Koyinsola Ajayi, chairman of the technical committee of the NBA conference, lawyers under the aegis of Open Bar Initiative lawyers who have criticised the governor “have suffered untold persecution” from him.

The group also said that in addition to governing a state that has been described as “the most dangerous state in Nigeria in 2020, El-Rufai has on several occasions abused the rights of Nigerians”.

But El-Rufai said his government has taken several actions to address the legacy of violent strife in the state.

The statement added that the governor remains focused on the “tough and hard work of stopping the bleeding in the state”. 

Also, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) says the decision of the NBA to withdraw the invitation to El-Rufai to speak at its annual general meeting is is based on prejudice and a declaration of war.

In a statement on Friday, MURIC director, Ishaq Akintola, said the NBA displayed intolerance by aligning with the views of a group without hearing the other side.

“It is high level prejudice. NBA as a group of learned literati should know better. It is parochial, myopic and jejune,” the statement read.

“The fact that NBA took the ill-advised step on account of a petition written by a group, Open Bar Initiative, whose main fear is expressed as ‘One can be sure that he will also use the given platform to advance his conflated narrative, designed to deceive and confuse the nation on the real causes of the killings’ exposes NBA’s impatience, intolerance and self-conceit.”

Akintola said by the NBA’s decision, the legal association has refused to contribute its quota to resolve the southern Kaduna crisis, saying its action is a declaration of war.

He said it is better to allow the governor speak at the event as “change cannot come through rejection and exclusion.”

The MURIC director called on lawyers from the northern region to boycott the conference until the NBA reverses its decision to exclude El-Rufai from speaking at the event.

“Is it not better to hear him out than to lock him out? Is it not better to jaw-jaw than to war-war? The departure of the ambassador, they say, is the beginning of war. By dropping El-Rufai, NBA has declared war on the other side in the southern Kaduna crisis. By so doing, it lost a golden chance to be part of the solution to the conflict. NBA has elected to be part of the problem,” he said.

“How justifiable is NBA’s decision to exclude Governor El-Rufai from the virtual conference when people like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Odi and Zaki Biam fame and Governor Nyesom Wike are among the speakers? Who bulldozed the hotels of innocent people despite court orders? Who visited unspeakable violence on political opponents? Should NBA hobnob with people linked to genocide and undemocratic practices? So why demonise el-Rufai where killers of innocent people and enemies of democracy are idolised?

“MURIC calls on all lawyers from the North to boycott NBA’s AGC in protest against this open declaration of war on Northern Kaduna. Every little action of injustice must spark a reaction if tyranny is to be stopped in the world. NBA has crossed the red line in human relations and conflict management. No single lawyer from the North should participate in the AGC either as a resource person or as a participant unless NBA rescinds its decision to drop el-Rufai from the list of speakers. Injury to one is injury to all.”

Meanwhile, The Jigawa branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) says if the decision to withdraw the governor’s invitation is not rescinded, they would boycott the annual conference.

In a statement, chairman of the Jigawa NBA branch, Garba Abubakar, argued that allegations against the governor had nothing to do with the national leadership of the association or the NBA at large.

“The Nigerian Bar Association Dutse Branch disagrees with the position of the national executive committee of the association held this evening, in its resolve to withdraw the earlier invitation sent to Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the executive governor of Kaduna state to participate as a guest speaker in the forthcoming annual general conference of the association scheduled to take place from August 26-29, 2020 based on frivolous allegations,” the chairman said.

“The decision is quite unfair as the allegation against the governor has nothing to do with the NEC or NBA at large. Worse still, the governor has not been given the opportunity to defend himself on the allegations raised against him by a group within the association, before the resolution of this magnitude was reached against him. as the Nigerian Bar Association belongs to all.

“The motto of the association is promoting the ‘Rule of Law’ prudence and justice, therefore, demands that he be given the opportunity to defend himself before taking any decision that affects him.

“If complaints are to be judged on their face value and without due process, similar treatment is to [be] given to Governor of Rivers State Nyesom Wike who has serious allegations of abuse of human rights against him to the extent of the demolition of residential houses and place of worship without observing due process.

“On the strength of this, therefore, we call on the national body under President Usoro SAN to reverse the decision with immediate effect, else, the Nigerian Bar Association Dutse Branch will boycott the virtual annual general conference taking place in a few days to come.”

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