The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has offered insights into its decision to feature singer Habeeb Okikiola, popularly known as Portable, at its 2023 Annual General Conference. Contrary to rumors suggesting a monetary exchange for his performance, the NBA maintains there was no such arrangement.
Last night, social media erupted with criticism directed at the NBA for including Portable in an event attended by legal luminaries. Some argued that this move had tarnished the association’s reputation, reducing it to a less dignified status.
Others simply labeled the show a mockery and an embarrassment to the traditionally conservative legal profession.
However, in an exclusive interview with PUNCH on Friday, the National Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Akorede Lawal, clarified the situation. He linked Portable’s presence to entertainer Obi Cubana, who was the headline sponsor of the event through his Cubana Group.
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Lawal explained that Portable was invited because he is a brand ambassador for Cubana Group’s “Odogwu bitters” product, and it was customary for the headline sponsor to bring a guest artiste to perform at the ‘Unbarred concert,’ a part of the conference that typically hosts lawyers of all ranks.
“We did not pay a dime to Portable for the concert,” Lawal asserted. “It is the largest gathering of lawyers anywhere in the world, and so to that extent, we always write to sponsors to finance every level of our events.”
He added that sponsors from various countries, including the United States and Chile, contribute to the financing of the event, emphasizing the global significance of the conference.
Regarding reports of lawyers staging a walkout during Portable’s performance, Lawal clarified, “No, they did not. The Friendship Centre is the customary place where all lawyers go to unwind, network, and engage in social activities.”
He explained that the concert was initially planned for the Friendship Centre but was relocated to the Velodrome of the National Stadium in Abuja, where the ‘Unbarred concert’ took place. This adjustment aimed to avoid scheduling two simultaneous events, as the Friendship Centre was already set up for other activities.
In conclusion, Lawal expressed gratitude to the Cubana Group for their sponsorship of the event. The conference, themed “Getting it right,” marked the 63rd annual gathering and spanned from Friday, August 25, to Wednesday, August 30, 2023, featuring a multitude of activities throughout its duration.