Withdrawal of el-Rufai’s Invite Devoid of Ethnic, Religious Colorations, Says NBA President

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Paul Usoro
Paul Usoro

*Tenders apology to governor

By Alex Enumah 

National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro SAN, on Friday stated that the decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NBA to withdraw its invite sent to Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai was not based on ethnic or religious considerations.

el-Rufai was billed as a guest speaker in the first ever virtual Annual General Conference of the NBA slated for August 26 – 29, 2020.

The inclusion of el-Rufai among other speakers at the event drew the irk of some members of the association, who threatened to boycott the conference if the name of el-Rufai was not dropped as speaker.

The pressure was said to have led the leadership of the NBA on Thursday to announce the withdrawal of Governor el-Rufai’s invite, which in turn seems to be dividing the association.

However explaining the rationale for the NEC’s action, Mr Usoro, urged members to remain united as the decision was taken in the overall interest of association.

The president, however, on behalf of the NBA tendered an unreserved apology to el-Rufai and other governors in the country, stressing that the dis-invite was never intended to embarrass el-Rufai or the governors as a whole.

Usoro, in the release noted that his explanation and apology had been conveyed to the governors through a letter to the Director General of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Mr Asishana Okauru.

In the letter dated August 21, the NBA President clarified that, “NEC’s decision yesterday had no ethnic or religious coloration or connotation howsoever and whatsoever. In discussing the issue at NEC, 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”, he said.

Usoro further pointed out that, NBA NEC, by its decision was not passing any judgment on the governor as the body is not in a position to pass such judgments without having all the facts and hearing from all the sides, adding that the NEC did 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”, Usoro explained.

He stated that the explanation was necessary to douse the ethnic and religious passions that seem to have been inflamed amongst members by the NEC decision.

He disclosed that he had received several messages from members that had attributed ethnic and religious considerations to the decision, which is not correct and is very far from the truth.

He said, “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”.

On the issue of fair hearing, Usoro stated that none of the persons or parties who are opposed to the invitation of Mallam el-Rufai to the conference had 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 am hoping that this release would assist in clarifying issues for our members and placing the NEC decision in its correct perspective. I implore all our members to please not view this issue howsoever from an ethnic or religious perspective. Those 2 were not the issues considered by NEC yesterday. We are one united Nigerian Bar Association with no religious or ethnic bias or predisposition and shall ever so remain”, he added.