The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), has explained why the association withdrew the invitation it once gave to the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, to speak at this year’s edition of the NBA Annual General Conference.
Usoro said the decision to withdraw the invitation was because the majority of the association’s members objected to the governor’s presence at the conference.
Usoro also apologised to El-Rufai for “the unintended embarrassment” which the invitation withdrawal might have caused him.
The apology was contained in Usoro’s August 21, 2020 letter addressed to the Director-General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Mr Asishana Okauru.
The National Executive Committee of the NBA had on Thursday withdrawn El-Rufai’s invitation as a panelist at the virtual conference scheduled to hold from August 24 to 26.
This followed protests by many lawyers who cited alleged injustice for victims of Southern Kaduna attacks, and accusations by human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), that El-Rufai was promoting impunity through disobedience to court orders.
Usoro stated in his letter that El-Rufai was invited as a panelist at the conference without the input of the NBA NEC as a body.
The NBA president described El-Rufai as a friend but noted that he had to bow to the preponderance of the opinions at the Thursday’s meeting of the NEC for the withdrawal of the invitation extended to the governor.
Usoro, who said he voted against the motion for the withdrawal of the invitation, however, stated that the NEC’s decision had nothing to do with ethnicity or the substance of the allegations levelled against El-Rufai.
Usoro’s letter titled, ‘Nigerian Bar Association 2020 Annual General Conference: Invitation to H/E Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State,’ read in part, “Further to our telcon (Okauru/Usoro) this morning (Friday) on the above subject matter, let me, once again, through your good offices, tender my unreserved apology to His Excellency, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, for the unintended embarrassment that may have been caused him by the decision of the Nigerian Bar Association National Executive Committee’s decision at its meeting that was held yesterday, August 20, 2020, to dis-invite him as a panelist at one of the sessions scheduled for the upcoming NBA Annual General Conference.
“As I explained to you during our telcon, the initial decision to invite HE Nasir El-Rufai was made by the AGC’s Technical Committee for Conference Planning without any input from the NEC as a body. The TCCP is itself an organ of NEC and was constituted by NEC at its meeting in December 2019.
“NEC, by its decision, was not passing any judgment on Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. NBA NEC is not in a position to pass such judgment without having all the facts and hearing from all the sides and it did not set out to pass any such judgment. NEC merely made a judgment that it was not in the best interest of the association to be engulfed in the controversy that trailed the invitation of Mallam El-Rufai for the conference and that it was best if the safety-valve of dis-inviting the governor was applied.”
Usoro added that there was a motion moved and seconded to that effect by NEC members at their meeting.
“Those who spoke in favour of his (El-Rufai’s) attendance, including me, were in the minority. I was personally placed in a very difficult and problematic position. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is a friend that I have known long ago in the early 1980s and we do have some other very close mutual friends.
“And yet, I am bound, as an elected President of the NBA, by the decisions and directives of NEC, to whom I am answerable in my official capacity. There truly was nothing that I or the TCCP could do in the face of NEC’s decision of yesterday,” he said.
Shiites hail NBA over El-Rufai’s exclusion from conference
Meanwhile, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, also known as Shiites, has hailed the NBA NEC for withdrawing its invitation to El-Rufai to speak at the conference.
The IMN in a statement on Friday titled, ‘Islamic Movement in Nigeria commends NBA for withdrawing El-Rufai’s invitation to address its national conference,’ described the governor as unsuitable to speak at such an event.
The President of the IMN Media Forum, Ibrahim Musa, said El-Rufai was known for infringing on human rights and intolerant of opposing views.
The statement read in part, “The Islamic Movement notes that Governor El-Rufai is the most unsuitable person to talk to a body of learned men, considering his legendary disrespect for the rule of law, blatant abuse of fundamental human rights and intolerance for opposing views.
“We, therefore, salute your unique courage to stand firmly on the path of what you profess to promote and stamp out impunity and gross abuse of human rights in our beloved country, which loudly proclaims to operate under the rule of law.”
Meanwhile, the Dutse, Jigawa State branch of the NBA has asked the NBA NEC to re-invite El-Rufai, or else it would boycott the conference.
The state NBA Chairman, Garba Abubakar, in a statement, condemned the NBA’s action and said the governor should have been given the right to respond to all the allegations levelled against him.
It said it was strange that the NBA could exclude El-Rufai and retain Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who has also been accused of several human rights infractions.