There was mild drama on August 21 when the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) announced that the Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai, has been withdrawn as one of the guest speakers billed to speak at the incoming NBA conference.
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The Kaduna governor was billed to speak in a session titled ‘Who is a Nigerian?… A Debate on National Identity.’
A group of lawyers, under the aegis of the Open Bar Initiative, led the rebellion against the NBA’s invitation to governor El-Rufai. The group accused the governor of human rights violations especially as it connects to the growing insecurity in Kaduna state.
The NBA U-turn:
After thousands of lawyers petitioned the NBA and backed it up with a media outcry to remove El-Rufai from the NBA conference panellist, the organisation was forced to reverse its decision to have the Kaduna state governor grace the occasion.
The NBA reached this decision after its executive committee, led by Paul Usoro (SAN), sat in consideration of the matter.
The media outcry involved a number of young lawyers who had only recently renewed interest in the affairs of the NBA from the time of its historic election which ushered in the president-elect, Olumide Akpata; and each of them withdrawing their attendance as they called for a boycott of the conference if El-Rufai would remain on the panel.
The NBA, in a full statement released to the press and to the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF), it apologised to the Kaduna state governor for the unintentional embarrassment the episode has caused.
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Why It Matters:
Following the development on Friday, August 21, Governor Nasir El-Rufai also released a statement which sought to clarify his position. While many have tagged the NBA decision as mulling free speech and the fundamental human right of El-Rufai, others have hailed the decision as a welcome development.
It is quite well public knowledge that the Kaduna state government (KDSG), led by Governor Ahmed El-Rufai, is known for notoriously flouting court orders.
Some of the examples cited were in the controversial case of the KDSG vs. Teachers, KDSG vs Kefason and KDSG vs. Sheikh Zakzaky.
El-Rufai was also accused of not doing enough to end the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna.
A number of sub-unit legal unions are alternatively kicking against the NBA decision. However, the protests are now moot as the decision of the NBA executive committee came with a majority vote and so is final.
Despite all of these signs of disrespect being meted on the judicial arm of government, having El-Rufai participate in the conference could mean, as some hold, a direct insult to the tenets of the legal profession which the NBA itself is supposed to protect.
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