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NBA withdraws invitation to El-Rufai

The Nigerian Bar Association has revoked Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s invitation to speak at the NBA annual conference.

This was disclosed by the outgoing president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, who stated that Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, will no longer speak at the association’s annual conference.

Furthermore, the NBA made the development public in a tweet on Thursday via its Twitter handle @NigBarAssoc. The tweet read, “The National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association at its ongoing meeting resolves that the invitation to the Kaduna State Governor, H.E. Nasir El-Rufai, by the 2020 Annual General Conference Planning committee be withdrawn and decision communicated to the Governor.”

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Mallam Nasir El-Rufai had been listed as one of the key speakers at the NBA’s 60th Annual General Conference, which was scheduled to take place from 26-29 August, 2020.

However, an online campaign against the governor’s participation started to gather steam on Monday, August 17, with threats by many lawyers to boycott the conference as long as he was involved. The petition, which was started by a lawyer, Usani Odum, had garnered over 3,150 signatures on Change.Org as of 4 pm on Thursday.

In addition, in a separate letter titled, ‘Request to Withdraw the Offer of Platform at the 2020 Annual General Conference of the NBA to Mallam Nasir el-Rufai,’ addressed to the Chairman, Technical Committee on Conference Planning, NBA, Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, some lawyers stressed that the governor must not be allowed to speak at the conference.

The letter, which was signed by Silas Onu and Auta Nyada, listed 10 allegations against el-Rufai and his son, Bello, who is a Special Adviser to Kaduna Central lawmaker, Senator Uba Sani.

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A lot of the accusations against El-Rufai revolved around his general attitude towards the rule of law, as well as his handling of the insecurity crisis in his state.

After days of sustained protests by lawyers and many groups, Usoro declared on Thursday, August 20, that the governor’s participation will be withdrawn.

The NBA president announced the decision at the association’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Thursday.

Several of the lawyers who have registered for the conference, which is scheduled to take place online due to the physical limitations enforced by the coronavirus pandemic, argued that El-Rufai was a bad fit for the NBA’s image.

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The governor’s sometimes brash comments about the killings in Southern Kaduna, tainted by ethno-religious colourations, have earned him public backlash and accusations that he tacitly supports the killings, or gives a free pass to the killers.

The lawyers also referenced many controversial utterances of the governor, including a threat during the run-up to the general elections in 2019 that any foreigner that interfered in the poll would leave Nigeria in body bags.

El-Rufai, a former minister, was scheduled to speak during a session tagged ‘Am I a Nigerian – A Debate on National Identity, The Indigeneship – Citizenship Conundrum’.

The NBA had said on Wednesday, August 19 the session would be a showcase of the conference that would also allow the governor speak about the security situation in his state.

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The NBA virtual conference is expected to have Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), in attendance.

Some other dignitaries who are billed to speak at the conference include the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike; a former minister, Oby Ezekwesili; a former vice presidential candidate, Pastor Tunde Bakare; a former ECOWAS commissioner, Salamatu Hussaini; and a former Anambra governor, Peter Obi.

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