Deborah: NBA Postpones Sokoto Conference

The Nigerian Bar Association has postponed its NBA-SPIDEL conference which was scheduled to hold in Sokoto this May.

See full statement stating reasons below:

STATEMENT OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION ON
SOKOTO CRISIS AND THE NBA-SPIDEL CONFERENCE 2022
1. The last week, like many before it, has been replete with unfortunate developments
that have trivialised the sanctity of human lives, exposed the weakness in our security
architecture, tested our collective resolve as a people, and significantly threatened the
unity of Nigeria as a nation. In the South-East, there were reports of the gruesome
killing of security personnel by the now notorious “unknown gunmen” and other nonState actors; in Lagos, a young man (simply identified as David) was reportedly
lynched by commercial motorcyclists around Lekki; and in Sokoto, there is the
unfortunate and heart-wrenching murder of Miss Deborah Yakubu, a 200-level
student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto by some of her school mates for
alleged blasphemy.
2. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is saddened by these developments and
unequivocally condemns extra-judicial killings in any part of the country as
reprehensible, barbaric and unacceptable. Our security agencies must do more to stem
these ugly developments, and ensure that the perpetrators of these heinous acts,
wherever or whomever they may be, are made to face the full wrath of the law. The
government should immediately commence the prosecution of all suspects involved
in these brutal and arbitrary killings in order to send a strong signal that such acts will
no longer be tolerated in Nigeria. The NBA also believes that the prompt and effective
prosecution of the alleged killers will instil confidence in the citizens, promote
accountability, and signpost the government’s commitment to the rule of law.
3. With particular reference to the murder of Miss Deborah Yakubu and related
developments in Sokoto, we note that some arrests have been made by the Nigeria
Police and that the suspects are now being prosecuted. We are, however, worried by
yet-to-be confirmed reports reaching us that the suspects have been charged with
mere breach of public peace in an episode that cut short Deborah’s life in her prime.
The NBA is strongly opposed to a banalisation of the situation, and if these reports are
true, then we call on the Sokoto State Government to immediately rethink its
prosecution strategy and file charges that truly reflect the gravity of the situation.
4. While the expectation of Nigerians and the international community is that the culprits
should be brought to justice speedily for the appropriate offences, the demand for the
release of the suspects by some protesting youths coupled with assault on innocent
citizens, burning of worship centres and destruction of property has added an entirely
new and worrisome dimension to the unfortunate incident. This is clearly test of the
will of the State to fully enforce its laws and foster rule of law.
5. The NBA believes that the unity of our polity holds immense promise for our greatness
and progress as a nation. For us, our unity, despite our diversity, has remained a
threshold issue. In fostering this unity, the NBA and its various sections have made it
a deliberate policy to rotate our annual conferences among the regions of the country.
In this respect, it is noteworthy that the NBA Section on Public Interest and
Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) held its 2019 Annual Conference in Aba, Abia State
while its next conference (2021) was held in the ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo State after
the 2020 conference was cancelled on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
6. Having held the two annual conferences in the old Eastern and Western regions, the
Executive Committee of NBA-SPIDEL was unanimous in its resolution that the 2022
Annual Conference should be held in the Northern region, consistent with the NBA’s
policy of inclusiveness. I am aware that NBA-SPIDEL sought to bequeath hosting rights
on any willing State in the Northern region, and the hosting right was eventually given
to Sokoto State when its Governor, H.E Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Life Bencher) agreed
that the Sokoto State Government would be a headline sponsor for the Conference.
7. As a result, I led a delegation to pay a courtesy visit on the Sokoto State Governor to
finetune preparations for the Conference, and during our meeting, the Sokoto State
Government renewed its commitment to ensure a serene and safe environment to host
a hitch-free Conference.
8. The Executive Committee of NBA-SPIDEL led by Dr. Monday O. Ubani and the Central
Planning Committee led by Dr. Muiz Banire SAN worked round the clock and held
extended meetings to finalise plans towards delivering a best-in-class conference.
Unfortunately, it was in the middle of all these that we received the sad news of the
gruesome killing of Miss Deborah Yakubu, whose murder threw the entire nation into
shock and disbelief.
9. The NBA is deeply worried not just by the chilling news of the murder of Miss Deborah
Yakubu, but also by the sudden and sad turn of events and the deteriorating security
situation in Sokoto State. As such, having critically reviewed the current security
condition in Sokoto, it has become apparent that we cannot guarantee the safety of our
guest speakers, delegates and other stakeholders that have committed to attend the
NBA-SPIDEL’s conference which was designed to put the State in the global spotlight
for the duration of the conference and beyond. Accordingly, the Executive Committee
of NBA-SPIDEL came to the painful decision to request, and I have approved, that the
2022 NBA-SPIDEL Annual Conference be postponed not only for the safety of our
conferees and guests, but as a mark of respect for the memory of the slain Miss
Deborah Yakubu.
10. The NBA acknowledges the efforts put in by the Sokoto State Government towards the
conference which is now beset by the prevailing security situation. While we
recognise that the Sokoto State Government has imposed a curfew to stem the unrest,
the NBA urges the State Government to fully collaborate with the Federal Government
to initiate measures — and where necessary deploy its coercive instruments — to
restore peace and order to the State, safeguard lives and property and dissuade  vandalism and impunity.

Lastly, we thank our delegates and our guest speakers who have made sundry
expenses and commitments towards participating in the Conference. We apologise for
any inconvenience that this postponement is sure to occasion. The NBA will continue
to monitor the situation and will provide further information on next steps when
normalcy returns.

OLUMIDE AKPATA
President
Nigerian Bar Association
17th May 2022

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