by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has rescinded its decision inviting Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state to attend the 2020 Annual General Conference, AGC, scheduled between 26th and 29th of August, 2020.
The conference, with a theme ‘Stepping Forward’, which has several new features, is the first-ever virtual AGC and the 60th edition of Association’s annual conference.
The 2020 AGC will draw participants from across the world, and about 15,000 lawyers had already registered for the conference as at last week.
Prominent Nigerians, including former president, Olusegun Obasanjo and Governor Nasir El-Rufai, were billed to attend the conference.
The Kaduna state governor, who was due to speak at the event has, however, been re-banned and denied the right to attend the programme.
NBA has officially rescinded its invitation that would have had El-Rufai as one of the Guest Speakers.
The decision to ban him was taken at a Pre-AGC NEC meeting on Thursday, according to insider sources.
The sources further stated that NBA members begun to grumble a few days ago as the invitation had graduated to ‘a roar’ on Thursday as they vehemently objected to the idea of having the governor as Guest Speaker.
Those, who could have defended the governor at the meeting, were reportedly caught unawares.
Some among the lawyers, who rejected El-Rufai as Speaker, cited worsening security situation in Southern Kaduna and his public utterances on the issue.
They also accused him of having journalists arrested and detained on his watch without due court processes.
Our correspondent observed that, about ten Kaduna-based journalists have at different times been arrested and detained, some dragged to court.
Among them are Gabriel Idibia of Union Newspapers, Jacob Onjewu of authenticnewsonline and Luka Binniyat of Vanguard Newspapers, in the process of which Binniyat spent three months in detention.
A lawyer, Usani Odum, who began the campaign to stop El-Rufai from attending the conference under the aegis of ‘Change.Org’ had gotten about 3,150 signatures as at 4 pm on Thursday.
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,’ which was addressed to the Chairman, Technical Committee on Conference Planning, NBA, Professor Koyinsola Ajayi, some lawyers also demanded that the governor must not be allowed to speak at the conference.
The lawyers in the letter, signed by Silas Onu and Auta Nyada, raised 10 allegations against el-Rufai and his son, Bello, who is Senator Uba Sani’s Special Adviser.
“We regret that our Association, whose Motto is ‘Promoting the Rule of Law,’ extended this invitation to a man, who represents the very anti-thesis of what we profess to defend.
“We, therefore, write as members of the NBA and citizens of Nigeria to request that this invitation should be withdrawn. We set out our reasons below.
“As you may know, at the end of June 2020, Civic Media Lab, which monitors mortality in Nigeria’s many security crises, declared Kaduna State, which is governed by Mallam El-Rufai, as ‘the most dangerous state in Nigeria’.
“As recorded by the organization, Kaduna’s ‘record of 493 persons killed between January and June, is higher than the reported deaths in the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorized territories of Borno, 290; Adamawa, 37 and Yobe, 5.
“As at today, Southern Kaduna is the most active site of massacres and mass atrocities in Nigeria. Despite this, when the Governor met with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna on 17 August, Governor El-Rufai dismissed the atrocities going on in Southern Kaduna as ‘media hypes’.
”The previous day, on 16 August, he informed Seun Okinbaloye on Channels Television’s programme, ‘Politics Today’ that he had been unable to visit the sites of atrocity in Southern Kaduna nor extend empathy to the victims because of COVID-19.
“However, not having found time to show up for victims of mass killings in his own state, on 8 August, Governor el-Rufai found time to travel to Benin-City for the flag-off of the campaign of his party in the Edo State Governorship elections. Apparently, COVID-19 did not preclude that.
“In April 2020, Bello El-Rufai, Governor El-Rufai’s son, who is also himself Senator Uba Sani’s special adviser, threatened another citizen, who had criticized his father, the governor, with the gang-rape of the person’s mother.
“When Samuel Ogundipe, a journalist with Premium Times, reported the episode, Bello El-Rufai, parlaying his filial propinquity to a powerful governor, threatened to arrest or disappear Mr. Ogundipe.
“In the run-up to the 2019 General Elections in Nigeria, Governor El-Rufai infamously threatened foreign observers that they would ‘go back in body bags,’ if they reported what he or his ruling party did not like. He suffered no consequences.
“As you may know, on 9 December 2019, Quartz Africa named Governor El-Rufai at the head of a ‘powerful’ group of Nigerian state governors, who ‘now regularly use security agents to arrest and intimidate journalists and activists, who dare to question their actions or attempt to hold them accountable.
“One of the most prominent victims of this is a University lecturer, Abubakar Idris, better known as Dadiyata, who was seized at the gate of his house in Barnawa, Kaduna, on 1 August, 2019, and has not been seen since then.
“At 10:16 hours on 23 December, 2019, one of Governor El-Rufai’s sons, Bashir, tweeted and gloated over the disappearance of Dadiyata, in which he signed off with the line ‘Dangerous lines in the public space have consequences’ the lawyers submitted in one of the petitions, according to “Team@orientmags.com.”