The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Sokoto State branch, Muhammad Nuhu, has said that the state is safe to hold the NBA-SPIDEL conference despite the killing of Deborah Samuel, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, that prompted the NBA to cancel the conference in Sokoto.
Religion Nigeria recalls that the 19-year-old Christian from Tungan-Magajiya in the Rijau Local Government Area of Niger State was lynched on Thursday, May 12 for alleged blasphemy.
The incident led to the cancellation of the NBA-SPIDEL which will reportedly hold in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
However, in an interview with The PUNCH’s ANIMASHAHUN SALMAN, Nuhu stated that Sokoto is safe to hold the conference and the initial cancellation was unjustified.
You wrote a letter to the leadership of the NBA expressing concerns over the planned NBA-SPIDEL conference scheduled to hold in Abuja. Can you explain what those concerns are and how they will affect members of the branch?
Holding the NBA-SPIDEL conference in Abuja will affect members of the Sokoto branch. As we all know, it is injustice. If what they (NBA) gave as the reason for the cancellation of the conference in Sokoto State is anything to go by, what can one say about Abuja? You will recall that it was the killing of Deborah Samuel, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, that prompted the NBA to cancel the conference in Sokoto.
It is on record and no one can deny the fact that Sokoto State is far safer in terms of security compared to what is happening in Abuja now. The last incident, the jailbreak at the Kuje custodial facility, is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. Even the security agencies know it is a serious issue. The NBA should tell us any security breach in Sokoto State, apart from that Deborah Samuel case that warranted such treatment. After all, our members had fully prepared for the conference in Sokoto.
Will the decision taken by the branch to boycott the Abuja event not be seen as revenge for the cancellation of the same event in Sokoto?
They can call it whatever name that suits them. All we know in this branch (Sokoto) is that we will not participate in any conference outside this state. Our members are not ready to be tossed by anyone. There was an agreement to hold the conference here (in Sokoto) before the sudden decision to cancel it and then took it to Abuja which has more security issues than many places now. Whether they call it revenge or not is not our problem. We have made our position known to them and nothing will change that as far as we are concerned in the Sokoto State branch.
There were calls for the cancellation of that conference to show condemnation of the murder of the college student. Don’t you think the national body of the NBA had a good reason to cancel the event when it did?
What good reason do they have that can justify such an act? If they claimed it was because of an insecurity problem, what about the current situation in Abuja? As of the time they cancelled it, we told them point blank that the reason given was not in any way justified. How can you use a single incident to cancel an event we had already prepared for? Everyone can testify to the fact that Sokoto State is a peaceful state. It was just an incident of (the late) Deborah that the security agencies were able to curtail and the record is there for all to see.
Has the NBA president responded to your letter?
The national president has called me to inform us that the conference will go on as scheduled by his team but promised to refund our money in this branch as we still maintain not to attend any conference outside Sokoto State.
Is asking for a refund of your members’ contributions to the proposed conference in Abuja not too harsh?
Why will asking for a refund be too harsh in the first instance when our members in the state were not considered before they arrived at the decision to take it to Abuja? If they tell us Sokoto State is not safe to hold a national conference, we are also telling them that Abuja is not also safe for our members. We all can testify to the many security breaches witnessed in Abuja in recent times and the mood of those residing in Abuja as of today. So, asking for a refund can never be too much.
How will the branch feel if the national body of the NBA cancels the conference and refunds its members’ financial contributions?
That will be a welcome development by our members.
What will the branch do if the national body insists on going ahead with the conference in Abuja?
I don’t want to pre-empt anything but I am very sure they will do what is expected of them.
Do you plan to take legal action in this regard?
Talking about the legal action, we have not thought of that as we believe they will do justice to our demands. For now, we have not been thinking in that direction and I believe it won’t get to that level.
Where do your members think is safe for the conference to hold?
To us in the Sokoto State branch, no other place is safer than this state for now. I don’t want to think of any other state than this state of ours. Our belief is that Sokoto State is safe for any conference to hold, irrespective of wherever they might be coming from. So, taking the conference to any other place is not acceptable to us and we will not participate in such.
Can you explain how much of a loss, in monetary terms, the branch incurred when the Sokoto event was cancelled?
We, in the branch, cannot quantify how much money we have spent on the preparation for the programme and the national body is aware of this. Let me tell you also that the programme that was zoned to Sokoto, our members were motivated to make payment for the event, thinking they would host it. They put in all their efforts. They can’t reimburse us for what we have spent on the preparation for the programme.
Insecurity has become a major problem in Nigeria. How many of your members have been directly affected in Sokoto, Abuja and other states?
To the glory of God, as of today, none of my members has been affected directly or indirectly. I pray that those affected directly or indirectly in the state or across the country will overcome this and Nigeria will be great again. Let me use this opportunity to call on security agencies to do whatever it takes to protect lives and property in this country. We all know as of today that almost every part of the country is not safe and things cannot continue like this, I believe. The sooner security is improved, the better for all of us irrespective of where we all live. Meanwhile, anyone assigned a duty to provide security should do their best or resign and let those who can deliver come in.