Some northern lawyers have withdrawn from the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) after it cancelled the invitation to Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State to speak at its conference.
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They have also formed a new group, New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA).
In a statement, the new association said recent developments within NBA generated increased concern which necessitated their withdrawal from the association.
“Its penal powers has been deployed discriminatively on the basis of ethnicity and regionalism,” the statement read.
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“As a body of lawyers who have undergone training towards ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights and liberties, the NBA is supposed to live above sentiments, regionalism and discrimination on any basis and of any kind. Therefore, the NBA cannot afford to be seen not to be upholding the rights and freedom of its own members if at all, it should be seen to be practising what it preaches.
“The New Nigerian Bar Association have been watching the activities of the NBA, an association we all looked forward to joining with high hopes before being called to the Nigerian Bar, forcing idiosyncrasies of few on the majority of its members, especially in recent times.
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“No wonder, NBA NEC, which is the highest decision-making organ of the association failed to uphold the fundamental principles of fair hearing which in itself, is the fundamental aspect of Rule of Law, on the allegations against the Executive Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai as were contained in a petition by Chidi Odinkalu Esq. a long time foe of His Excellency and a lawyer of eastern extraction, but the NBA failed to extend the same treatment to Southern invitees who were also petitioned and are also alleged to have committed similar or more human rights abuses than those alleged against Mallam El-Rufai.”
The NNBA said mandatory membership of the NBA is unconstitutional as Section 40 of the constitution permits freedom of membership of any association.
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The lawyers said their interests are no longer taken into consideration in major decisions of the NBA hence the formation of the new association.
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The discord started when El-Rufai was stopped from speaking at an NBA conference. Some lawyers had kicked against the choice of the governor, saying the invitation is a “reward for misrule” and alleged that el-Rufai has abused the rights of Nigerians on several occasions.