The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has explained the reasons why the Annual General Conference’s National Executive Committee,NEC, took the last minute decision to withdraw the invitation earlier extended to the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai to speak at the conference.
The association denied the claims that the governor’s invitation was withdrawn based on ethnic and religious concerns.
NBA’s President Paul Usoro explained this in a statement released by the Annual General Conference’s National Executive Committee.
According to him, the withdrawal came following outcry and disapproval from some lawyers who were of the opinion that the governor hasn’t fared well in respect to upholding human rights and tackling insecurity in the Southern part of his state
Usoro said, “This morning (August 21), I have had telephone discussions with the Director-General of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Mr. Asishana Okauru, on the issue and have tendered through him, to HE Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, my sincere apologies and regrets for any unintended embarrassment that he may have been caused by the NBA NEC’s decision.
“I followed up our telephone discussions with the attached letter which explains the circumstances of the decision by NEC.
“The letter has been sent to Mr. Okauru, both in hard and soft copies. It is apropos that l reproduce in this Release, paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 of the letter for ease of reference by our members.
“ln concluding, I must clarify two critical issues. First, NEC’s decision yesterday had no ethnic or religious coloration or connotation howsoever and whatsoever. In discussing the issue at NBC, nobody talked about religion or ethnicity.
“As I recall, there were no more than 3 (three) advocates for retaining the invitation of the NBA to HE Nasir El Rufai (not including me) and two of these three gentlemen are from the South of Nigeria and one is a reverend gentleman.
“Conversely, some of those who spoke against his attendance share the same faith with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and some others come from the Northern part of Nigeria.
“The second point that I must clarify is that NBA NEC, by its decision was not passing any judgment on Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. NBA NEC is not in a position to pass such judgments without having all the facts and hearing from all the sides and it dld not set out to pass any such Judgment.
“NEC merely made a judgment that it was not in the best interest of the Association to be engulfed in the controversy that trailed the invitation of Mallam el-Rufai for the Conference and that it was best if the safety valve of dis-inviting the Governor was applied.
“Indeed, NEC did not howsoever or at all discuss the substance of the issues that have been raised against the Governor by the different groups and persons who clamored for his being dis-invited and there was very considerable clamor in that regard.
“I perhaps need to mention that, prior to the NEC meeting I had personally taken urgent and strident steps, working with the TCCP, to douse the clamor, but we had no success.
“I truly would appreciate your bringing this letter to the attention not just of HE Nasir e1 Rufai but also to all the other members of the esteemed Nigerian Governors’ Forum and in particular, the Chairman of the Forum, HE (Dr) Kayode Fayemi.
“Please, assure Their Excellencies that the Nigerian Bar Association holds all our Governors, including HE Nasir e1 Rufai, in the highest esteem and would do nothing intentionally to embarrass them collectively or individually.
“Once again, I offer my sincere and deepest apologies and regrets for the unintended embarrassment that may have been caused to HE Nasir el Rufai by the afore referenced decision of the NBA NEC and would appreciate your passing on my regrets and apologies to him personally.
“That is not correct and is very far from the truth. Neither the NBA nor NEC belong to any religious or ethnic group. We are lawyers and professionals dedicated to the ideals and the promotion and preservation of the Rule of Law and we belong to one indivisible family of the NBA.”
He also stressed that “None of the persons or parties who are opposed to the invitation of Mallam el Rufai to the AGC has been offered the NBA or AGC platform to advocate or propogate their viewpoints and positions and so, the principle of not hearing the other side does not arise.
“I implore all our members to please not view this issue howsoever from an ethnic or religious perspective. Those were not the issues considered by NEC yesterday.”
The conference which is scheduled to start August 26 through to 29 will be attended virtually by all registered members of the association.