Dozens of lawyers have threatened to boycott the 60th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over the involvement of Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
El-Rufai is listed as one of the key speakers for the conference which is scheduled to take place between August 26 and August 29, 2020.
An online campaign against the governor’s participation started to gather steam on Monday, August 17.
Many lawyers who have registered for the conference, which will take place online due to the physical limitations enforced by the Coronavirus pandemic, said the Kaduna governor is a bad fit for the NBA’s image.
A lot of the accusations against El-Rufai, serving his second term as governor, revolve around his general attitude towards the rule of law, as well as his handling of the insecurity crisis in his state.
Lugard Tare-Otu, a lawyer and partner at Assangha Tare-Otu, a law firm with offices in Lagos and Port Harcourt, said that the former minister lacks compassion and a sense of justice which are values the NBA stands for.
He said, “In my opinion, Governor El-Rufai stands for everything which is against the rule of law.
“There are at least two to three court judgements which have held that he wrongfully caused the arrest and incarceration of people, in violation of their rights, and damages were awarded in favor of the people who were incarcerated.”
The lawyer also noted that the governor has done a less than exemplary job in his handling of the killings that have taken place in Southern Kaduna under his watch, accusing him of dereliction of duty.
El-Rufai recently raised eyebrows when he claimed Southern Kaduna leaders were fueling the killings in the region to get government invitations to collect ‘brown envelopes’.
“The governments before us were paying them money every month, they called it peace money. We stopped it,” he said on Sunday, August 16.
The governor’s sometimes brash comments about the crisis, tainted by ethno-religious undertones, have earned him public backlash and accusations that he tacitly supports the killings, or gives a free pass to the killers.
On Monday, during a visit to the governor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Dr Samson Ayokunle, cautioned el-Rufai to stop issuing provocative statements over the killings in the state.
Tare-Otu said the NBA must remain a beacon of justice and foster a culture of accountability that holds leaders like El-Rufai to account.
Itong Washington, another lawyer, also said that the NBA must starve El-Rufai of its platform, and hold him accountable instead.
“I think it sends the wrong message out.
“Going forward, I believe the NBA should live up to its mandate of being a bulwark against inefficient and poor governance,” he said.
Both lawyers, just like dozens online since Monday, said they will not be participating in the conference if El-Rufai remains as a key speaker for the virtual event.
“In the event that the Paul Usoro-led leadership of the Bar doesn’t heed our call by withdrawing El-Rufai’s invitation to speak at the conference, then I will be boycotting the conference and plans are afoot for many lawyers to do the same,” Tare-Otu said.
A Twitter user @itongwaahington said, “Dear @NigBarAssoc, I just ran through the list of speakers in the forthcoming virtual conference and Governor El-Rufai’s name is on the list. I’ll be withdrawing my attendance and cancelling my registration for the conference. Thank you.”
Another person, @Lugard_Tareotu said, “El-Rufai had no business sitting with and speaking to gentlemen and ladies of the Bar. I therefore call on @OlumideAkpata to withdraw El-Rufai from speaking at the conference. Retweet this in solidarity with the incarcerated people of Southern Kaduna. #Elrufaiiscancelled.”
Also, a user with the handle @el_shinkafi said, “This is part of the reason why I don’t take NBA leadership and its politics seriously. Paul Usoro had a good look at Nigeria and his committee decided it was a good look to invite El-Rufai to speak at the NBA conference. El Rufai! He will speak to Paul Usoro alone.”
Another user @Buka_Inc said, “The nomination of Governor El-Rufai to address lawyers at the NBA conference is a mockery of the NBA and lawyers in general.
“How can we sanitize the judiciary with such acts? A kingpin in the abuse and disregard of the rule of law to address lawyers? I will not be attending the NBA conference.”
The NBA, Governor El-Rufai, and his spokesperson, Muyiwa Adekeye, have yet to respond to requests for comments to address the situation, according to the online news medium, Pulse.
El-Rufai is schedule to speak on Thursday, August 27 on the subject of national identity, alongside Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike; a former vice presidential candidate, Pastor Tunde Bakare; a former minister, Oby Ezekwesili; and a former ECOWAS commissioner, Salamatu Hussaini.
According to the NBA, over 15,000 people have registered for the conference tagged ‘Step Forward’.
Coalition of Northern groups constitute c’ttees to establish peace in Kaduna
In another development, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has constituted three committees with a mandate to come up with an acceptable framework for peace to reign in Kaduna State.
Recall that the Southern part of the state has experienced the worst form of violence in recent times with hundreds of residents murdered by bandits.
The committees constituted by CNG are economic and empowerment committee, political and social committee and the governance/law enforcement committee.
The group also resolved to establish a non-governmental organisation that will accommodate relevant stakeholders with an objective mindset that will essentially work for restoration of peace, encourage reconciliation and accelerate economic growth mechanisms.
Spokesperson for the CNG, Suleiman Abdul-Azeez, told journalists after a meeting that the group won’t leave any stone unturned towards ensuring that lasting peace returned to the area.
He said, “At the end of the follow-up meeting with relevant stakeholders from Southern Kaduna, the participants unanimously resolved to set up an NGO for Southern Kaduna that will promote peace, reconciliation and empowerment.
“That in addition to the mandate of the various committees set up, suggest names for immediate registration with relevant bodies and for advocacy to commence immediately and liaise with clerics.
“The meeting identified bad politics, economic realities and government actions positive and negative as factors associated with the recurring crisis in the area.”
The meeting was chaired by the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the group, Nastura Ashir Sheriff.