El-Rufai to NBA: I didn’t get fair hearing

• Pressure mounts on association to disinvite Obasanjo, Wike
Nasir El-Rufai

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of the state of Kaduna hit out at the Nigerian Bar Association ( NBA) on Saturday to de-invite him as a guest speaker at the 60th Annual General Conference (AGC) of the body.

He found the NBA's conduct scandalous, peculiar, politically motivated and a denial of his right to a fair hearing.

An NBA group, Radical Agenda Movement, called on the body to revoke the invitation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State as speakers at the AGC for the same reasons that held El-Rufai out, while more lawyers threatened to boycott the conference unless the invitation of the Kaduna Governor was restored.

In a letter of protest to the NBA through his lawyer, Mr. A.U. Mustapha (SAN), El-Rufai said the league had fallen into the domain of partisanship which would serve as the nation's conscience.

He said:

The news of the withdrawal by the Annual General Conference Planning Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association its earlier invitation to Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai as a guest speaker in the forthcoming NBA 60th Annual General Conference was received by my humble self with rude shock and bewilderment.

“It is utterly scandalous, to say the least. My response is principally dictated by the strange circumstance leading to and surrounding the said withdrawal of the invitation, which is based on one-sided allegations contained in a petition by the so-called Open Bar Initiative, which was believed and acted upon by the Annual General Conference Planning Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association without any reference to Governor El-Rufai.

”The decision taken by the NBA to withdraw their invitation to Governor El-Rufai on the basis of the wild and unsubstantiated allegations contained in the Open Bar Initiative petition without any reference to the governor is not only a naked affront on the rule of law but also a contradiction of the NBA’s motto which held itself out as the custodian, defender and guardian Angel of the rule of law in Nigeria.

”The implications of this grievous decision by the NBA demonstrate a total disregard for the basic constitutional provision of fair hearing which is the foundation and bedrock of the rule of law designed for the safeguard of fundamental right and freedom in any civilised and democratic society.

“It therefore beats all imagination that an elitist professional body like the NBA could take a decision that negates the very essence of this fundamental constitutional provision, no matter how tempting or appealing the reason may be.”

He said NBA's ruling violated the rule of law, in particular El-Rufai's right to a fair hearing.

He said the insinuation of political reasons behind the de-invitation would not be out of place.

He added:

“Going further, it is also instructive to note that the NBA sat down, constituted itself unto a court and adjudged Governor El-Rufai guilty of all the allegations contained in the said petition without hearing a word from the governor and thereafter proceeded to apply the sanction requested by the petitioners, which is a withdrawal of the invitation. What a “court!”

“Can this be called justice and fairness? Is this exemplary? It would certainly not be out of place to insinuate political motives behind this unfortunate decision as the NBA as a professional body, which is supposed to be in the forefront of the protection and promotion of the rule of law in Nigeria, should know better than this.

“After all, members of the NBA Executive and Annual Conference Planning Committee as constituted can be counted among the brightest legal minds in Nigeria.”

He advised NBA to remain apolitical instead of taking actions that can cause discord.

“This attitude of the Association drives home the point that our beloved country still has a long way to go. The Nigerian Bar Association is not just an association; it is an association that is expected to serve as the conscience of the nation.

“If such an association now descends into the realm of partisanship, parochialism, unfounded hearsay and one-sided justice, then the country is lost indeed.

“I consider it important to advise that the Association maintains its hitherto apolitical nature. It should not lend itself a tool of vendetta in the hands of unscrupulous people who want to use the NBA to fan the embers of discord.”

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