Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, has described the withdrawal of invitation to speak at the annual general meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), as an “unfortunate embrace of injustice”.
NBA withdrew the invitation following an outcry by some lawyers who said the governor stands against what the profession represents.
In a statement, Muyiwa Adekeye, his spokesman, issued on his behalf on Thursday, el-Rufai said despite the withdrawal of the invitation, he will continue to make his voice heard on the things the country needs to do to make progress.
“While the decision about who speaks at its event is clearly the NBA’s, Malam El-Rufai wishes to make clear that he did not seek the platform and is not agitated that he has one less speaking engagement,” the statement read.
“However, the circumstances of the last few days warrant some comments. That a professional organisation has elected to endorse a one-sided narrative on a profound national issue is something that its members may wish to reflect upon.
“For an association, whose bread and butter is about justice, to make a ruling based on the stridency of people who lampoon judicial processes against certain individuals without hearing the other side is odd. It bears noting that in its response to pressure, the NBA leadership has signalled an unfortunate embrace of injustice, unfairness, absence of fair hearing and total disregard for the rule of law.”
The governor also said he would respond appropriately to the alleged defamation in the petition filed against him.
In a petition to Koyinsola Ajayi, chairman of the technical committee of the NBA conference, lawyers under the aegis of Open Bar Initiative lawyers who have criticised the governor “have suffered untold persecution” from him.
The group also said that in addition to governing a state that has been described as “the most dangerous state in Nigeria in 2020, el-Rufai has on several occasions abused the rights of Nigerians”.
But el-Rufai said his government has taken several actions to address the legacy of violent strife in the state.
“He is the governor that made permanent military and police bases a reality in southern Kaduna, after close to 40 years of waiting. He is the governor that set up a Peace Commission to nudge communities to embrace their responsibility to live in peace and harmony,” the statement read.
“He has done this with equality of concern for all residents, not just those with access to the media and who are able to mobilise sentiment even when they are part of the problem. His investments in building a constituency for peace, anchored on the rule of law, respect for the citizenship rights of everyone and an embrace of the obligations of a common humanity will continue.”
Adeleke added that the governor remains focused on the “tough and hard work of stopping the bleeding in the state”.