El-Rufai Vs. NBA: The Unspoken Truth About The Annual Conference Of Nigerian Lawyers.
By Inibehe Effiong
As a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), I have been silent before now on the avoidable and needless controversy that has characterized the self-redeeming decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NBA to disinvite the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, as one of the speakers at the 2020 virtual Annual General Conference of the NBA because emotions have been elevated above reason.
For the sake of history, I will summarize my position publicly because there is no fence for anyone to sit on this issue.
Those who contemplated and recommended Mallam El-Rufai as a speaker at the 2020 NBA Conference despite his noxious human rights record, open contempt for the rule of law and inflammatory identity politics should apologize to Nigerian lawyers and the entire country for the attendant embarrassment, polarization and controversies that have greeted the NEC decision.
The NBA has a fundamental problem; a problem of purpose.
The NBA’s motto is “defending the rule of law”. Nobody to my knowledge has disputed the documented cases of disregard to court orders by Governor El-Rufai. Among the victims of his tyranny and intolerance are members of the NBA from Kaduna State.
Those arguing that the Kaduna governor should have been given a “fair hearing” are playing to the gallery. The right to fair hearing under Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) only avails persons whose civil rights and obligations are to be determined by a court or tribunal established by law or by administrative bodies. El-Rufai does not have a legally protected right to speak at the NBA conference. It is only a privilege which can be given or withdrawn by the NBA without a reason. Therefore, the issue of fair hearing does not arise.
All that the NBA owed him was the courtesy to notify him of the NEC decision which was done through the representation made to the Director General of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum by the NBA President, Paul Usoro SAN. The NBA President did not have to apologize to the Kaduna governor. Mr. Usoro’s apology was ostensibly actuated by his personal relationship with El-Rufai which he publicly alluded to and had nothing to do with the opinion of most lawyers in Nigeria on the matter. Majority of Nigerian lawyers do not owe El-Rufai an apology.
The NBA was not obligated to hear from the Kaduna governor before reaching a decision on the massive protests by her members against the platform wrongly offered to him as one of the speakers. It is the domestic affairs of the NBA to determine who should speak at its conference which does not warrant the insolent, vexatious and intrusive statements by extremist religious bodies and individuals who have sought to capitalize on the development in a sinister effort to foster their misplaced divisive and sectarian agenda.
Mallam El-Rufai should not have been invited in the first place. A man who has exuded dictatorial proclivity and primitive bellicosity towards his critics should not be offered a platform to speak at the gathering of learned men and ministers in the temple of justice.
Regarding the unabated killings in Southern Kaduna, El-Rufai has not only mismanaged the crisis, he has shown open bias which has escalated the murderous reign of the cult of killers in Kaduna State. It is a sad commentary that some lawyers and meddlesome non-lawyers shamelessly turned the commendable decision to disinvite El-Rufai into a religious issue.
El-Rufai once spoke about the lack of policy of consequence as the bane of development in Nigeria. To allow him to address lawyers despite his divisive and oppressive style of leadership will be a derogation from the policy of consequence which he espoused. This should serve as a notice to other arrogant public office holders in Nigeria that there is a price to pay for flouting court