Six days to the commencement of the. Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), 1700 lawyers have signed a petition writen by a lawyers group, Open Bar Initiative(OBI) calling on NBA to withdraw the invitation as a speaker, extended to the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
The Annual General Conference of the NBA is scheduled to hold between August 26 and 29, 2020. The technical committee in charge of organizing the conference had extended an invitation to Governor El-Rufai as one of the speakers at the conference.
But OBI kicked against the invitation based on the human rights violation records of the governor, particularly the killings in Southern Kaduna where OBI claims over 500 people have been killed by Fulani herdsmen.
In its petition to the Chair, Technical Committee on Conference Planning(TCCP), Prof Konyinsola Ajayi SAN, OBI said that the largest gathering of lawyers in Africa should not be given as a platform to a serial human rights abuser.
“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 We, therefore, write as members of NBA and citizens of Nigerians to request that this invitation be withdrawn”, the petition signed by Silas Joseph Onu, and Auta Nyada, the conveners of OBI stated.
The petition goes further: “As you may know, at end of June 2020, Civic Media Lab, which monitors mortality in Nigeria’s many security crises, declared Kaduna State which is governed by Malam 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, 2020 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”. The governor is alleged to have dismissed the massive killings as “media hype”.
OBI further accused El-Rufai of suppressing information by constantly harassing and intimidating journalists in the state from doing their work. “On December 9, 2019, Quartz Africa named Governor El-Rufai as 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 hold them accountable”. The group gave as example the case of a University lecturer, Abubakar Idris, popularly known as Dadiyata, who was abducted at the gate of his house at Barnawa, Kaduna on August 1, 2019. He has not been seen till today.
Th therefore urged TCCP to withdraw the invitation. “We hope you will find our correspondence worthy of your time and our prayers deserving of your attention. If, however, it is the preference of the TCCP to disregard our very reasonable request, we will take steps to make you and your conference popular and join you in ensuring that the conference in your leadership enjoys maximum disrepute”, the group concluded.