Dozens of lawyers have threatened to boycott the 60th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over the involvement of Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

El-Rufai is listed as one of the key speakers for the conference which is scheduled to take place between August 26 and August 29, 2020.

An online campaign against the governor’s participation started to gather steam on Monday, August 17.

Many lawyers who have registered for the conference, which will take place online due to the physical limitations enforced by the coronavirus pandemic, said the Kaduna governor is a bad fit for the NBA’s image.

A lot of the accusations against El-Rufai, serving his second term as governor, revolved around his general attitude towards the rule of law, as well as his handling of the insecurity crisis in his state.

Lugard Tare-Otu, a lawyer and partner at Assangha Tare-Otu, a law firm with offices in Lagos and Port Harcourt, told Pulse that the former minister lacks compassion and a sense of justice which are values the NBA stands for.

He said, “In my opinion, Governor El-Rufai stands for everything which is against the rule of law.

“There are at least two to three court judgements which have held that he wrongfully caused the arrest and incarceration of people, in violation of their rights, and damages were awarded in favor of the people who were incarcerated.”

The lawyer also noted that the governor has done a less than exemplary job in his handling of the killings that have taken place in Southern Kaduna under his watch, accusing him of dereliction of duty.

Governor El-Rufai is one of over 60 people listed for a speaking engagement at the conference [NBA]Governor El-Rufai is one of over 60 people listed for a speaking engagement at the conference [NBA]

El-Rufai recently raised eyebrows when he claimed Southern Kaduna leaders were fueling the killings in the region to get government invitations to collect ‘brown envelopes’.

“The governments before us were paying them money every month, they called it peace money. We stopped it,” he said on Sunday, August 16.

The governor’s sometimes brash comments about the crisis, tainted by ethno-religious undertones, have earned him public backlash and accusations that he tacitly supports the killings, or gives a free pass to the killers.

Tare-Otu said the NBA must remain a beacon of justice and foster a culture of accountability that holds leaders like El-Rufai to account.

Itong Washington, another lawyer, also told Pulse that the NBA must starve El-Rufai of its platform, and hold him accountable instead.

“I think it sends the wrong message out.

“Going forward, I believe the NBA should live up to its mandate of being a bulwark against inefficient and poor governance,” he said.

Both lawyers, just like dozens online since Monday, said they will not be participating in the conference if El-Rufai remains as a key speaker for the virtual event.

“In the event that the Paul Usoro-led leadership of the Bar doesn’t heed our call by withdrawing El-Rufai’s invitation to speak at the conference, then I will be boycotting the conference and plans are afoot for many lawyers to do the same,” Tare-Otu said.

The NBA, Governor El-Rufai, and his spokesperson, Muyiwa Adekeye, have yet to respond to requests for comments from Pulse to address the situation.

El-Rufai is schedule to speak on Thursday, August 27 on the subject of national identity, alongside Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike; a former vice presidential candidate, Pastor Tunde Bakare; a former minister, Oby Ezekwesili; and a former ECOWAS commissioner, Salamatu Hussaini.

According to the NBA, over 15,000 people have registered for the conference tagged ‘Step Forward’.