The secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Rt.-Hon Patricia Scotland QC, has stated that the Commonwealth is “closely monitoring developments around suspension of Twitter, and allegations of repression of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom, as well as disregard for the rule of law in Nigeria.”
This was disclosed on Sunday by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare.
Scotland said all Commonwealth member countries, including Nigeria, have obligations and commitments to uphold freedom of expression as one of the core values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter.
“This underscores a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments,” she noted.
The statement by the Commonwealth followed an Urgent Appeal by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urging the secretary-general to “apply the Commonwealth Charter to hold the Nigerian government to account over the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and the resulting repression of freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.”
In the Urgent Appeal, SERAP had stated that: “The Nigerian government has repeatedly demonstrated that it is not committed to protecting human rights.
“The Commonwealth should take a clear stand to ensure accountability of institutions, freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in Nigeria.”
Scotland in a letter sent to SERAP, said: “I write to acknowledge with thanks, receipt of your letter dated 5 June 2021 highlighting concerns about the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.”
The letter by the Commonwealth dated 22 July 2021, and signed on behalf of the secretary-general by Roger Koranteng, Officer in Charge, Governance and Peace Directorate, read in part: “The Commonwealth Secretary-General has been following the developments in Nigeria very closely and she is engaging the relevant stakeholders.”
“Please be assured that the Secretariat will remain engaged with the authorities in Nigeria and encourage a speedy resolution of this matter.”
Oluwadare, in a statement on Sunday, said: “We are very delighted that our letter and the concerns that it raises have caught the attention of the Commonwealth Secretary-General.
“Given her public record for justice and human rights, we have absolutely no doubt that she will prevail on the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to lift the unlawful suspension of Twitter, respect human rights, and obey the rule of law.”
SERAP’s Urgent Appeal dated 5 June, 2021, had asked the secretary-general to urgently consider recommending the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth to the Heads of Government, the Commonwealth Chair-in-office, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth “to push the government to take concrete measures to respect and promote the Commonwealth’s values of human rights, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.”
He said that Nigerians can only freely participate in the democratic processes and shape the society in which they live if these fundamental human rights are fully and effectively respected, protected and promoted.
The group said the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria demonstrates the authorities’ determination to suppress all forms of peaceful dissent by the Nigerian people, adding that there are well-founded fears that the human rights situation in Nigeria will deteriorate even further if urgent action is not taken to address it.