The Yobe and Bauchi branches of the Nigerian Bar Association have threatened to boycott the association’s annual general conference over the decision to withdraw Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, as a participant.
In separate statements issued Friday, the NBA branches expressed displeasure with the decision of the association’s leadership to withdraw an earlier invitation extended to Mr El-Rufai, the Kaduna State governor, to speak at the event.
“The decision of the NEC is against the pillars of natural justice on the presumption of innocent and fair hearing as enshrined in constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and equal opportunity to all citizens of this country,” read the statement of the Yobe branch of the NBA, signed by its chairman, Usman Lukman.
“At no time during the NEC meeting that our NEC members from Damaturu branch were afforded (the) right to vote on these resolutions which we consider as thin air, lies and deception against the person of Mal Nasir El-Rufai.”
The branch’s demands include setting aside the “unpopular resolution” of withdrawing Mr El-Rufai’s invitation and apologising to the governor.
Although Paul Usoro, the NBA president, had penned an apology to Mr El-Rufai, Mr Lukman told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that nothing short of a reversal of the decision to withdraw the governor’s invitation would suffice.
“The decision should be reversed or we will boycott the conference,” Mr Lukman added.
Bauchi joins the fray
Following petitions and protests against the inclusion of Mr El-Rufai as a guest speaker at the 60th annual NBA general conference, scheduled for August 26-29, the association’s leadership on Thursday withdrew the Kaduna governor’s invitation. The governor protested the decision, describing it as an “unfortunate embrace of injustice.”
On Friday, Paul Usoro, the NBA president, apologised to Mr El-Rufai, noting that the decision to disinvite him was taken by a majority of the NEC members.
The lawyers in Jigawa State were the first of the 125 branches of the NBA to threaten a boycott of the annual general conference when it described the NEC’s decision as “unfair.”
Like their Jigawa and Yobe counterparts, the Bauchi branch of the NBA also dissociated itself from the decision of the NEC, saying it was based on “unscrupulous and unfounded allegations.”
“We wish to categorically state that the NBA should be seen as promoting the principles of Rule of Law and attainment of justice to all manner of people irrespective of cultural, tribal, religious and or political inclination,” read the statement signed by Abubakar Abdulhamid and Shamsuddeen Magaji, chairman and secretary respectively.
Mr Abdulhamid confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that he co-signed the statement.
“The position taken by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Nigerian Bar Association has, without apology, contravened the position of Section 36 (1)(4) and (5) of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which envisage fair hearing and presumption of innocence.”
The branch called on the NEC as well as the NBA leadership to apologise to lawyers for reaching “such (an) unpopular decision.”
“Furthermore, failure to rescind its decision, the leadership of our noble branch has resolved unanimously and unequivocally to boycott the forthcoming NBA conference scheduled for this 2020. We also call on all the members of our branch to comply with the same above.”
Mr Abdulhamid shot down suggestions of a replacement for Mr El-rufai, saying “an injury to one is an injury to all.”
“Without ironing what he has really committed that can make him to be treated like that, we believe the issue of any replacement should not be there.”