By Benprince Ezeh
PAUL Usoro, President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has explained to Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai why legal body withdrew the invitation extended to him to speak at the forthcoming lawyer’s conference. Usoro also apologised for the unintended embarrassment that may have been caused him by the decision of the NBA or the National Executive Committee, NEC decision at its meeting to dis-invite him as a panelist in one of the sessions scheduled for the upcoming NBA Annual General Conference, AGC.
Usoro’s explanation was contained in a letter dated August 21, 2020, to el-Rufai, stating that the decision to dis-invite him had no ethnic or religious coloration or connotation howsoever and whatsoever just like it had rumoured.
Part of the statement states: “In discussing the issue at NEC, nobody talked about religion or ethnicity. As I recall, there were no more than three advocates for retaining the invitation of the NBA to Nasir El-Rufai (not including me) and two of these three gentlemen are from the South of Nigeria and one is a reverend gentleman.
“Conversely, some of those who spoke against his attendance share the same faith with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, and some others come from the Northern part of Nigeria.
“As I explained to you during our telco, the initial decision to invite HE Nasir El-Rufai was made by the AGC’s Technical Committee for Conference Planning, TCCP, or the Committee without any input from NEC as a Body. The TCCP is itself an organ of NEC and was constituted by NEC at its meeting in December 2019. It is in all respects answerable to NEC and has a mandatory duty to report its activities to NEC at NEC’s quarterly meetings one of which was held yesterday. As an elected National Officer of the Association, I am personally answerable to NEC and cannot overrule its decisions even if I have totally different viewpoints and positions in regard thereto. TCCP, as an NBA organ, is in precisely the same position and the same applies to all other committees of the NBA.
“Indeed, I need to mention that a standard agenda item for the Quarterly NEC Meeting is the Report from the various NBA Sections, Forums and Committees. To the extent that the NBA Committees’ works and activities are on the NEC Agenda, NEC members are at liberty to raise questions, demand clarifications, discuss and give mandatory directives and directions on those works and activities and the Committees are bound by those directives and directions of NEC. As I also explained to you, the statutory membership of NEC is made up of all Past Presidents and General Secretaries and three members each from each of our 125 Branches. There are also about 120 co-opted members. NEC was deliberately made that large by the framers of the Association’s Constitution to accommodate all shades of opinion and thoughts.”
According to him, the decision was raised by NEC and got seconded. “As I further mentioned to you during our telcon, the invitation of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was brought up by NEC members at yesterday’s meeting when the TCCP’s arrangements for the 2020 AGC were 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. 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. There truly was nothing that I or the TCCP could do in the face of NEC’s decision of yesterday.
“Another point that I must clarify is that NBA NEC, by its decision was not passing any judgement on Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. NBA NEC is not in a position to pass such judgements without having all the facts and hearing from all the sides and it did not set out to pass any such judgement. NEC merely made a judgement 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. Indeed, NEC did not howsoever or at all discuss the substance of the issues that have been raised against the Governor by the different groups and persons who clamoured for his being dis-invited and there was a very considerable clamour in that regard. I perhaps need to mention that, prior to the NEC meeting I had personally taken urgent and strident steps, working with the TCCP, to douse the clamour, but we had no success.
“I truly would appreciate your bringing this letter to the attention not just of Nasir el-Rufai but also to all the other members of the esteemed Nigerian Governors’ Forum and in particular, the Chairman of the Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi. Please, assure Their Excellencies that the NBA holds all our Governors, including Nasir el-Rufai, in the highest esteem and would do nothing intentionally to embarrass them collectively or individually. Once again, I offer my sincere and deepest apologies and regrets for the unintended embarrassment that may have been caused to HE Nasir el-Rufai by the afore-referenced decision of the NBA NEC and would appreciate your passing on my regrets and apologies to him personally,” Usoro said.
– Aug. 22, 2020 @ 816:05 GMT |