Paul Usoro (SAN), President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has given reasons why Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna State Governor’s invitation to participate at the association’s Virtual Annual General Conference was withdrawn.
In a letter dated Friday August 21 and addressed to Asishana Okauru, Director-General of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Usoro explained that Governor El-Rufai’s invitation was strongly opposed by some members of the NBA and after the issue was put up for a vote by the BAR National Executive Committee (NEC) during its teleconference meeting, those against the Governor had the majority.
The NBA President, however, apologised for the inconvenience the development might have caused him.
“As I also explained to you, the statutory membership of NEC is made up of all past presidents and general secretaries and 3 (three) members each from each of our 125 branches. There are also about 120 co-opted members,” he said in the letter.
“NEC was deliberately made that large by the framers of the Association’s Constitution to accommodate all shades of opinion and thoughts.
“As I further mentioned to you during our teleconference, the invitation of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was brought up by NEC members at yesterday’s (Thursday’s) meeting when the TCCP’s arrangements for the 2020 AGC was placed on the agenda for discussions and the preponderance of opinion was that His Excellency should be dis-invited.
“There was indeed a motion that was moved and seconded to that effect. Those who spoke in favor of his attendance, including me, were in the minority. I was personally placed in a very difficult and problematic position.”
Noting there was nothing he or the conference planning committee could do over the decision, Usoro clarified that the Kaduna Governor’s rejection has no link with religion or ethnicity.
“Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is a friend that I have known as long ago as the early 1980s and we do have some other very close mutual friends. And yet, I am bound, as an elected President of the NBA, by decisions and directives of NEC to whom I am answerable in my official capacity,” he said.
“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.
“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.”