BY Kayode Oyero
The Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria has asked the Nigerian Bar Association to remove ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, from the list of speakers in the upcoming Annual General Conference of the NBA.
Thousands of lawyers had signed a petition for the NBA to remove Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, from the list of speakers due to his government’s failure to stop the killings in Southern Kaduna, and his alleged human rights record.
The summary of the petition against el-Rufai, which was started by Usani Odum, read, “The senseless killings in Southern Kaduna must stop.
“The political correctness of Governor el-Rufai on national TV is diversionary. It is a reversal to have him speak to lawyers on security, when Governor (Babagana) Zulum of Borno, a better person, can do so.
“We may not be able to do anything to stop the killings, but we can stop the governor from speaking at the NBA-AGC to show our disapproval of the manner he has handled the situation.”
Bowing to pressure, the NBA tweeted its decision on Thursday, “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to the Kaduna State Governor, H.E. Nasir el-Rufai by the 2020 Annual General Conference Planning committee be withdrawn and decision communicated to the governor.”
The Kaduna governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye, however, described the NBA decision as “an unfortunate embrace of injustice, unfairness, absence of fair hearing and total disregard for the rule of law.”
Also, the Dutse branch of the NBA, among others, has threatened to boycott the 60th virtual conference which holds between August 26 and 29, 2020, if el-Rufai is not re-invited.
Other speakers at the conference with the theme, ‘Step Forward’, include Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo; House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad; Former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
In a telephone interview with our correspondent on Saturday, president of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria, Ibrahim Abikan, said his association objected to having Obasanjo and Wike as speakers at the conference because they were allegedly guilty of the same allegations filed against el-Rufai.
Abikan said the outgoing NBA president, Paul Usoro, SAN, contacted MULAN to suggest an alternative “Northern Muslim speaker” following the dis-invitation of el-Rufai.
Abikan, a Professor of Law at the University of Ilorin, said, “MULAN didn’t suggest or recommend el-Rufai to be one of the speakers, so, we wonder why we were approached to come up with an alternative Northern Muslim governor to replace el-Rufai.
“We insist that if any standard is set for withdrawing el-Rufai, the same should apply to other speakers too.
“El-Rufai is a public officer and any other person who has the same record of allegations of human rights abuses should also be disqualified.
“We expect that the same standard should apply to Obasanjo and Wike.
“People have started forwarding petitions to me of allegations of human rights abuses and disrespect for the rule of law against Obasanjo and Wike. They have started forwarding it to NBA Conference Planning Committee and the NBA as a body.
“Our position is that whoever is going to be speaker should be able to give us quality presentation.”
In a separate interview with our correspondent, the immediate-past president of MULAN, Funminiyi Adeleke, said the NBA dis-invited el-Rufai without giving him the opportunity to defend himself.
Adeleke said, “We looked at the parameters upon which el-Rufai was dis-invited. Other speakers on that platform are equally guilty.
“For instance, Obasanjo is one of the worst abusers of human rights in Nigeria. We know what happened at various times when he was in the military and when he came back as a civilian leader.
“He doesn’t have the pedigree to be a speaker.”
Continuing, he said, “What of Wike? Wike is the first governor to declare his state as a Christian state, which is an affront to Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution which states that no state shall adopt a religion as the state religion.
“But even when confronted, Wike continues to say that Rivers is a Christian state. He has committed a lot of atrocities – he destroyed mosques, hotels, he did a lot of things and we have a catalogue on them.
“Our position is that the NBA should drop Obasanjo and Wike and get any other person because if you dis-invited el-Rufai for disregard for the rule of law, the two other speakers on the platform are equally guilty.”