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NBA 60TH Conference: Lawyers spurn El-Rufai as key speaker


Ahead of the 60th Annual Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Conference, a group of lawyers have kicked the nomination of Kaduna State Gov. Nasir El-Rufai as one of the key speakers at the virtual conference.

In a petition by Open Bar Initiative to the Chairman of the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP), Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN), the aggrieved lawyers expressed grave disappointment with the inclusion of El’rufai as a speaker, saying he might use the platform to play the ostrich with the senseless killings in Kaduna.

They said the association should not give him their collective platform to speak.

The Convener and Co-Convener of Open Bar Initiative, Mr Silas Joseph Onu and Mr Auta Nyada condemned in strong terms the inclusion of El-Rufai’s name, saying : “We have observed, with grave disappointment, the inclusion of Governor Nasir El’rufai as one of the speakers in the 2020 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association.

“It is sad that at a time when El’rufai is playing ostrich with the senseless killings in Kaduna, the Bar Association is giving him our collective platform to speak.

”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.

“The Kaduna killings cannot be justified as a reprisal by the Governor, using our platform. Reprisal killing is also a criminal offence. However, this Governor makes it appear like a justified cause.

“We are, therefore, calling on the organisers of this conference to immediately remove El’rufai from the list of speakers as not doing so will mean that the NBA is condoning his tactics of wilful maladministration regarding Kaduna South security situation”

Silas warned that if the NBA Conference Planning Committee and the President of the Bar insisted on El’rufai as a speaker, many lawyers might boycott the virtual conference.

Persecondnews recalls that on May 12, 2020, NBA had announced that it will hold its virtual Annual General Conference scheduled for August 26 to  29 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

No fewer than 15,012 participants have registered for the virtual conference.

NBA had listed speakers at the event as former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Rivers State Gov. Nyesom Wike, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Tanko Mohammed and Kaduna Gov. Nasir el-Rufai.

Others are former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami; President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), Brian Speers, and Director of Training at the Judicial Institute for Africa; Hon Dame Linda, Dobbs.

Only El-Rufai’s name generated protests from lawyers as they took to the social media to ventilate their anger.

The Open Bar Initiative petition also stated: “You may argue that it is a good thing to offer Mallam El-Rufai the platform of the #NBAAGC2020 so that he may be subjected to some examination by the participants. However, as you can see, those who have criticized him so far, many of them well placed members of our Association, have suffered untold persecution from Mallam El-Rufai or his family. When these members of our Association fought for their freedom and against their own persecution by Mallam El-Rufai, neither the NBA nor its leadership showed up.

“If you ask our members to criticize him now, will you protect them when Mallam El-Rufai levies his inevitable retribution and persecution or will you offer us all balaclavas so that we will ask him question with our faces fully covered?! We have set these out factually because we do not wish to be presumptuous. This then is the person that you have decided to elevate and offer a platform at the biggest gathering in defence of the rule of law in Africa.

“As Governor, Mallam El-Rufai has shown no regard for the rule of law, for human rights or for human beings. He has been reckless in his utterances, hubristic in his outlook and irresponsible with power. Offering him the platform of the NBA Annual General Conference 2020 is reward for misrule.

“Recall that in 2018, this very platform was given to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he used it to advance an agenda that is against the motto of the Nigerian Bar Association when he asserted that “Rule of law must bow before National Security”. That is still a very bad stain on the image of the Nigerian Bar even now. Let us not repeat such a reckless mistake, as this is even potentially worse.

“This is why we have chosen to appeal to your professional conscience to with a factually founded letter to withdraw this invitation that brings our cherished Association into irretnediable disrepute. We hope that you will find our correspondence worthy of your time and our prayers deserving of your attention.

“ If, however, it is the preference of the TCCP, to disregard our very reasonable request, we will take steps to make you and your conference popular and join you in ensuring that the Conference under your leadership enjoys maximum disrepute.’’

Mr Itong Washington, who deregistered himself from the virtual conference, had tweeted: “Dear @NigBarAssoc, I just ran through the list of speakers in the forthcoming virtual conference and Gov. El-Rufai’s name is on the list. I’ll be withdrawing my attendance and cancelling my registration for the conference. Thank you”.

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