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NBA Conference: NEC removes El-rufai as a speaker after lawyers threatened boycott

The National Executive Committee  (NEC) of the Nigeria Bar Association has voted to remove  Nasir El-rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, as a speaker from the 60th Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) annual conference starting on August 26.

This follows protest by lawyers who argued that El-Rufai should be removed from among the speakers lined up for the conference due to the killings in the Southern Kaduna and his record for disregarding rule of law.

Chidi Odinkalu, a former chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Thursday evening broke the news that NBA’s NEC has removed the governor from the list of its speakers at the conference.

The NBA also confirmed this on its Twitter handle.

“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to the Kaduna State Governor, H.E. Nasir El-Rufai by the 2020 Annual General Conference Planning committee be withdrawn and decision communicated to the Governor,” NBA said.

Alos, the Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project (SERAP), in reaction, said it welcomed the decision by the NBA to withdraw its invitation to the Kaduna State Governor on ground of poor human rights record and also called on the NBA not to invite any representatives of the Nigerian Government to its events until President Buhari obeys all outstanding court orders

Lawyers on Tuesday threatened to boycott the event if the Governor of Kaduna State was not removed as one of the speakers.

They had 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.

According to those protesting against El-Rufai’s appearance at the conference, they would withdraw their participation if the governor is allowed to speak at the conference.

Open Bar Initiative, a voluntary advocacy and justice initiative for lawyers across Nigeria had also in a statement stated that it was important for the NBA under the leadership of the president-elect, Olumide Akpata to remove El-Rufai from people scheduled to speak at the conference, citing the spate of insecurity in Kaduna State among other reasons.

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The group in a petition signed by its convener, Joseph Onu said that the Open Bar Initiative was appealing to the professional conscience of the NBA leaders and that of the organisers of the conference to withdraw the invitation extended to El-Rufai to save the association’s name.

He said the governor had refused to visit the Southern Kaduna, despite the spate of killings going on in the area, noting that he has been giving a flimsy excuse of COVID-19 as his defense.

On Wednesday, over 400 Nigerians also signed a petition demanding for the removal of the governor from among the speakers.

While opposition grew against El-Rufai to speak at the conference, some Nigerians on Thursday also mounted a campaign in his defence, insisting on his appearance at the conference.

The conference themed “Step Forward” is scheduled to hold between August 26 and 29 virtually with El-Rufai listed among nine others including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as speakers.

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.

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