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NBA conference: Lawyers call for removal of El-Rufai as a speaker, threaten boycott

LESS than eight days to the opening of the 60th Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) annual conference, some Nigerian lawyers have threatened to boycott the event if Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State is not removed as one of the speakers.

The NBA annual conference is scheduled to hold between August 26 and 29 with the theme ‘Step Forward’.

Organisers of the conference had lined up 10 speakers including the Governor of Kaduna State to talk at the event,  aggrieved lawyers were questioning his inclusion based on the current killings in Southern Kaduna under his watch.

Other speakers expected at the conference are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State  Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of House of Representatives, Olusegun Obasanjo, former President and Tanko Muhammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria,

Ike Ekweremadu, former Deputy Senate President, Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Brian Speers, President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Linda Dobbs, Director of Training at the Judicial Institute for Africa are also expected to speak at the conference.

According to those protesting against his appearance at the conference, it is either he is dropped or they would withdraw their participation.

They have already taken to Twitter to demand his exclusion from the panel, describing him as ill-fit to address lawyers or be a part of such gathering.

Itong Washington, a member of the NBA in a tweet announced that he won’t be participating in the conference after seeing El-Rufia listed as a speaker.

When asked, Washington told The ICIR that with the ongoing genocide in Southern Kaduna, the NBA which is established to promote the rule of law is expected to be a voice for the protection of citizens and should be able to hold leaders to account.

“Giving him (El-Rufai) a speaking role in the forthcoming conference only serves as a tacit, maybe explicit, acceptance and support for the state of things in Southern Kaduna,” Washington  said.

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“Assuming the governor is busy trying to arrest the situation, it is also an unnecessary distraction from the oath he swore to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians living and working in Kaduna, and I think the NBA should allow him focus on the task.”

The lawyer argued that “There’s no urgent need to have El-Rufai speak at the conference, moreso that he is not a lawyer.”

Valerian Nwadike, another barrister also tweeted that he would be withdrawing his participation from the conference, if El-Rufia is not removed as a speaker.

“NBA should never be seen as enablers of insecurities in Southern Kaduna,” Nwadike said.

For a Twitter user and lawyer, identified as Buka, the selection of El-Rufai as a speaker for the upcoming AGC is simply 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,” her tweet read.

Lugard Tare-Otu, a Nigerian lawyer who also announced his withdrawal from attending the NBA annual conference called said El-Rufai must be stopped from attending and speaking at the conference.

We must stop El-Rufai from speaking at our NBA conference,” he tweeted.

In spite of this virtual protest, the NBA as of the time of filing this report was yet to issue any statement or respond to their grievances.

The NBA’s last tweet via its Twitter handle (@NigBarAssoc), shared during the early hours of Tuesday focused on promoting the upcoming event.

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“You cannot afford to miss it. It is virtual. It is free! Register to enjoy all the special packages and partake in the stimulating discussion panels,” the tweet read in part.

However, Paul Usoro, outgoing president of the NBA,  said the 2019 Annual General Conference of association recorded an attendance of over 12,000 delegates, noting that the upcoming 2020 conference is expected to record a higher number of participants.

“The 2019 AGC recorded an attendance of over 12,000 delegates and we were expecting to have a higher number for the 2020 Conference given the fact that this year not only mark 60 years of Nigeria’s independence, but also 60 years of the NBA’s AGC,” Usoro said while announcing that conference will be held virtually due to COVID-19 realities.

Meanwhile, while featuring on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, El-Rufai said Southern Kaduna leaders are responsible for the killings in the state because his administration has refused to grease their palms.

“I have no time for nonsense. I will not appease criminals. I will not appeal ideal people who have nothing to do but raise a spectre of genocide so that they can get and so-and-so, so that they can get donations and money into their bank accounts from abroad, instead of standing up and having a profession and a business and earn a living,” he said.

In a report by SB Morgen (SBM), over 511 persons were said to have been killed  in Southern Kaduna as of July 25.

According to SBM, these killings were recorded from 83 violent attacks that have occurred in the area within the first half of 2020.

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