NBA Withdraws Conference Invitation to El-Rufai Over Southern Kaduna Killings

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SWITZERLAND, AUGUST 21 – The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has withdrawn its conference invitation to Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, citing protests against him for poor human rights record and inability to stop the mayhem in the Southern part of the state.

The NBA indicated this in a tweet on Thursday via its Twitter handle @NigBarAssoc.

The tweet reads, “The National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association at its ongoing meeting resolves that the invitation to the Kaduna State Governor, H.E. Nasir El-Rufai, by the 2020 Annual General Conference Planning committee be withdrawn and decision communicated to the Governor.”

A petition to stop the governor from attending the NBA’s Annual General Conference which was started by a lawyer, Usani Odum, had garnered over 3,150 signatures on Change.Org as of 4 pm on Thursday.

In a separate letter titled, ‘Request to Withdraw the Offer of Platform at the 2020 Annual General Conference of the NBA to Mallam Nasir el-Rufai,’ addressed to the Chairman, Technical Committee on Conference Planning, NBA, Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, some lawyers said the governor must not be allowed to speak at the conference.

The letter, which was signed by Silas Onu and Auta Nyada, listed 10 allegations against el-Rufai and his son, Bello, who is a Special Adviser to Kaduna Central lawmaker, Senator Uba Sani.

They faulted the NBA for inviting el-Rufai, citing his alleged poor human rights record and his inability to stop the killings, particularly in southern Kaduna.

The lawyers also referenced many controversial utterances of the governor, including a threat during the run-up to the general elections in 2019 that any foreigner that interfered in the poll would leave Nigeria in body bags.

The NBA virtual conference, which holds from August 24-26, 2020, is expected to have Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), in attendance.

Others expected to speak at the event include former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Governor Wike of Rivers State and a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili.

The theme of the conference is: ‘Am I a Nigerian – A Debate on National Identity, the Indigeneship-Citizenship Conundrum’.

Meanwhile, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has described the decision of the NBA to withdraw the invitation extended to him as “an unfortunate embrace of injustice, unfairness, absence of fair hearing and total disregard for the rule of law.”

Reacting in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye, the governor said he will continue to speak out on national issues whether given the NBA platform or not.

The statement read, “When lawyer friends requested Malam Nasir El-Rufai to accept the invitation of the NBA to participate in a panel discussion on national identity, he accepted as part of his commitment to having a national conversation and the evolution of a national consensus.

“NBA platform or not, these worthy conversations must continue. He will continue to make his voice heard on the things our country needs to do for its 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.

“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 signaled an unfortunate embrace of injustice, unfairness, absence of fair hearing and total disregard for the rule of law.

“The defamatory statements in the petition is another matter entirely, and they will get the appropriate response.

“Malam Nasir El-Rufai has taken several actions on the security, institutional and technology fronts to address the legacy of violent strife in the state. He is the governor that made permanent military and police bases a reality in southern Kaduna, after close to 40 years of waiting. He is the governor that set up a Peace Commission to nudge communities to embrace their responsibility to live in peace and harmony.

“He has done this with equality of concern for all residents, not just those with access to the media and who are able to mobilise sentiment even when they are part of the problem. His investments in building a constituency for peace, anchored on the rule of law, respect for the citizenship rights of everyone and an embrace of the obligations of a common humanity will continue.

“Those who have chosen to pretend that it is only Kaduna State that is experiencing the security challenges in North-West, or that it is only one part of the state that is affected can enjoy the illusion.”

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