By Innocent Anaba
The National Executive Committee, NEC, of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has cancelled the invitation extended to Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State by the 2020 Annual General Conference Planning Committee, to speak at the association’s conference.
The NBA, meanwhile, resolved to communicate the decision to the governor.
The decision to cancel the invitation extended to el-Rufai was reached at the virtual NEC meeting of the NBA, which is the customary Pre-Annual General Conference, meeting.
Out-going Publicity Secretary of the association, Mr Kunle Edun, confirmed the development to Vanguard, yesterday.
Before the Pre-Annual General Conference NEC, where the decision to cancel the invite was reached, no fewer than 3,000 lawyers had signed a petition against the participation of el-Rufai as a key speaker at the conference, noting that he had no regard and does not obey court judgments.
The Pre-AGM NEC is the last of the NBA administration, led by Mr Paul Usoro, SAN.
With participants from all of NBA’s 125 branches, NEC is the highest decision making organ of the NBA after the Annual General Meeting, AGM.
Lawyer and activist, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, who joined in the campaign against el-Rufai, had said in a protest letter to the NBA Conference planning committee: “You will agree with me that Mallam el-Rufai’s penchant for disobeying court orders is inconsistent with the aims and objectives of the NBA, which include the promotion and protection of the rule of law. See article 3 of the 1999 constitution of the NBA.
“Since the conference planning committee is bound by the provisions of the NBA, the invitation extended to Mallam el-Rufai to address the 60th annual conference of the NBA should be withdrawn as the NBA cannot afford to associate with public officers who promote impunity in the country.’’
Meanwhile, former Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, in a tweet, had said that over 3,000 lawyers joined the Bar Initiative in its petition asking the NBA to withdraw the invitation of speaker extended to the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, to address association’s 2020 annual conference billed to start later this month.
Reacting last night, Governor el-Rufai said in a statement by his Special Adviser, Muyiwa Adekeye: ‘’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.”