A respected and learned senior advocate of Nigeria has penned a thought provoking letter to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN following the withdrawal of invitation to Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
A copy of the said letter was made available to Lex Community NG and it states as follows:
“21st August, 2020.
Paul Usoro, SAN
Nigeria Bar Association President
NBA House, Plot 1101 Mohammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District
Abuja, F.C.T, Nigeria
RE: WITHDRAWAL OF INVITE TO MALLAM NASIR EL-RUFAI BY THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
The news of the withdrawal by the Annual General Conference Planning Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, its earlier invitation to Governor NasirAhmed 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 a one sided allegations contained in a petition by the so-called Open Law Initiative which was believed and acted upon by the Annual General Conference Planning Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association without any referenceto 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 demonstrates 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.
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 who is supposed to be in the fore front 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.
On a final note, 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 wants to use the NBA to fan the embers of discord
God bless the Nigerian Bar Association.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
A.U. Mustapha, S.A.N.”