A STATEMENT ON THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION’S DECISION TO DIS-INVITE GOVERNOR NASIR EL-RUFAI

A STATEMENT ON THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION’S DECISION TO DIS-INVITE GOVERNOR NASIR EL-RUFAI

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Background

  1. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is the professional association of legal practitioners in Nigeria with a membership of over 120,000 lawyers across the country. It is a body “engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law and good governance in Nigeria”.
  2. Following widespread domestic concerns over renewed inter-religious-ethnic killings in Kaduna State, on 20 August, 2020, the NBA took the decision to “dis-invite”, the Governor of Kaduna State from speaking at its 2020 Annual General Conference which is scheduled to hold from 26th to 29th August, 2020. The organisation came to this position having made the judgment that “it was not in the best interests of the Association to be engulfed in the controversy that has trailed the invitation of Mallam el-Rufai for the Conference”.
  3. Kaduna State is one of the 36 States into which Nigeria is divided under the terms of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The State borders, to its south, the Federal Capital, Abuja.
  4. The State is a microcosm of Nigeria in its ethnic complexity and religious mix. It is made up of around 60 ethnic groups divided between Christians and Muslims and native faiths. It was the location of the Miss World pageant of November 2002 which was aborted after more than 200 people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians over the staging of the contest. Northern Kaduna is predominantly Muslim while Southern Kaduna is almost wholly Christian.
  5. Mallam Nasir Ahmed el Rufai, a Fulani Muslim born in 1960 in Daudawa, in Katsina State, in the far north of Nigeria is the Governor of Kaduna State, having been in office since 2015. He hails from Northern Kaduna.
  6. Under the Nigerian Constitution, the State Government has responsibility for making laws for the “peace, order and good government of the State”. Since at least the early 1980s, Southern Kaduna has been plagued by a cycle of mass killings between Muslims and Christians.
  7. Since the inception of the 1999 Constitution, in recognition of the delicate religious and ethnic mix in the State, political power and representation has been pragmatically balanced, for example, by ensuring that if the Governor of the State was from Southern Kaduna, the holder of the office of Deputy Governor would be from Northern Kaduna. This balancing arrangement appears to have been abandoned for the first time by the el Rufai administration so that virtually all the key offices of the State – including the governorship and deputy governorship – are presently occupied by Muslims.
  8. Following a new round of inter-ethnic-religious killings in Southern Kaduna, Governor el Rufai gave a 30-minute interview on Nigeria’s Channels Television on 18 August, 2020, in which he discussed the crisis in Southern Kaduna. In the course of the interview the Governor said as follows:
  • The current crisis is not new, strange or peculiar; it has been going since 1981;
  • On average “we have these outbreaks every three years”
  • “We have been successful in containing them; we’ve done the best we can”
  • The crisis has attracted “undue interest, far above the norm” which is the work of “irresponsible leaders in Southern Kaduna who have no profession, no business other than using these unfortunate situations to feather their nests”
  • “We knew that there would be reprisal attacks from the Fulani”
  • “The problem with the Southern Kaduna elite is that they are used to being appeased, I have no time for them”
  • “I don’t have to visit [Southern Kaduna] personally”
  • “I have established permanent military bases and a permanent police mobile force in Southern Kaduna”
  • “No amount of security personnel can keep the peace in Southern Kaduna unless the people are willing to live in peace with one another” 

Statement

The Fatherland Group is concerned about the security situation in Southern Kaduna.

The Group is disturbed that the crisis appears to have worsened since Governor El Rufai took office in 2015, with less concern being shown to the ethnic diversity within the State in State appointments and with ethnic and religious conflicts intensifying even after the Governor’s claims to have  established permanent military and police bases in Southern Kaduna.

The Fatherland Group is worried that the language used by the Governor in dismissing leaders in Southern Kaduna as “irresponsible” persons “who have no profession, no business other than using these unfortunate situations to feather their nests”, is closing off the opportunities for the resolution of the underlying issues in these troubles through dialogue. In deploying a rhetoric that seeks to inflame rather than douse tensions, Governor El Rufai has demonstrated a palpable failure of leadership, a dangerous partisanship and open alignment with a party to the intractable conflict, and a defiant refusal to empathise with a community (of Southern Kaduna) that has suffered for so long under constant assault of armed bandits and terrorists.

In the circumstances, the Fatherland Group applauds and endorses the decision of the Nigerian Bar Association to “dis-invite” Governor Nasir El-Rufai from speaking at its 2020 Annual General Conference. It now calls upon the Nigerian Federal Government to take the lead in arresting the cycle of killings in Southern Kaduna by securing the disarmament of all groups involved in the conflict without partiality and for the peaceful and equitable resolution of all inter-ethnic land disputes in Southern Kaduna.

Finally, given our deep concerns about the willingness and ability of the Nigerian authorities to address this issue in a fair and just manner, we call on the Nigerian civil society organisations, regional bodies  and independent international organisations such as Transparency International, to launch independent inquiries into the Southern Kaduna crises, and support the call for the Nigerian authorities to address this issue in a transparent and fair manner.

Fatherland Group is a global network of forward thinking Nigerians armed with a new understanding of our past, our present and our future.

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