Lukman Olabiyi (Lagos) and Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Kaduna State chapter of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) has resolved to boycott the forthcoming virtual annual general conference of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) over the controversial withdrawal of invitation to Governor Nasir El-Rufai as one of the guest speakers on the occasion.
Members of the national body of NBA were sharply divided following the invitation extended to El-Rufai to grace the occasion, with some of them accusing the governor of human rights violations over the years, declaring that it would amount to insult for such personality to stand before all lawyers in the country and address them.
However, addressing journalists yesterday, the Vice Chairman of MULAN, Abbas Masanawa, said the decision of NBA to cancel the invitation extended to El-Rufai to the conference was “parochial, sentimental, disuniting and tainted with favouritism and ethno-religious considerations.”
Masanawa said the Kaduna State branch of MULAN, which has membership strength of over 500, had decided to boycott the annual event, unless El-Rufai was re-invited.
His words: “In view of the unfortunate decision of the NBA NEC, MULAN Kaduna State branch is left with no option than to instruct its members to withdraw their participation in the forthcoming NBA Annual General Conference (AGC) and we enjoin all Muslim lawyers in Nigeria to join in the boycott.
“MULAN Kaduna branch reaffirms its support to Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai in his efforts to stem the tide of insecurity in Kaduna State generally and Southern Kaduna in particular.”
In a similar development, the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria (SCSN) has lambasted the leadership of NBA for not being fair to El-Rufai by de-listing him from attending the conference.
A statement issued by the Secretary General of SCSN, Nafi’u Baba-Ahmad, said the action of NBA had dented its image as a responsible association that represents the conscience of the society.
The statement read in part: “The decision taken by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to delist Malam Nasiru Ahmad El-Rufa’i, as one of the speakers at its virtual annual national conference is, to be charitable, regrettable and irresponsible of an institution of which I had hitherto been a proud member for over 40 years.
“This unfortunate development has cast a terrible smelly smear on the NBA, which until recently was regarded as representing the best ideals of justice, equity and the good conscience of the society.
“We want to believe that the decision is not representative of all its right-thinking members. For clearly, it has already taken side in the Southern Kaduna crisis, contrary to its members’ training and what it loudly preaches, without listening to the narrative from the other side.
“Clearly, lowly, narrow political and religious sentiments have beclouded the judgment of the leadership of the NBA, which forget the most basic principle of legal training and that its membership cuts across all sides of the divide.”
Baba-Ahmad said that NBA had no justifiable reason in law or common sense to exclude El-Rufai from participating in the virtual conference.
As the dust raised by the NBA’s withdrawal of the invitation continues to swirl, Open Bar Initiative (OBI), a voluntary advocacy and justice initiative for lawyers, has dared the Kaduna State governor to file defamation suit over various allegations it leveled against him.
The group co-authored the petition against the governor, which led to his exclusion from the forthcoming NBA virtual conference.
National Executive Committee of the NBA in the run-up to the Annual General Conference (AGC) had on Thursday taken a decision to cancel its invitation to the governor in response to the outcry by some lawyers, OBI and other groups.
Following the NBA decision, El-Rufai in a press release issued by his spokesman, Muyiwa Adekeye, took exception to what he described as defamatory statements made against him in the petition and declared that the petitioners would get an appropriate response from him.
However, OBI in reaction to the implied threat of the governor, dared him to carry out his threat.
Through its verified Twitter handle @BarInitiative, OBI tweeted: “At best, this is laughable. Even at a time that he is expected to be sombre, he is dishing out threats for an imaginative “defamation.” Well, bring it on, the courtroom will not contain the lawyers for the defendant and more will be revealed about him. Shame!”