The Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, has stated that the Commonwealth is closely monitoring developments around the 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.
Ms. Scotland noted that 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.
The statement by the Commonwealth followed an urgent appeal by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), urging Ms. Scotland 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 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”.
Responding to this appeal, Ms. Scotland in a letter sent to SERAP, said: “I write to acknowledge with thanks, receipt of your letter highlighting concerns about the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria”.
The letter by the Commonwealth which was signed on behalf of Ms. Scotland 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.
“All Commonwealth member countries (including Nigeria) have committed themselves to upholding freedom of expression as one of the core values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter, which underscores a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments.”Patricia Scotland
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Reacting to this, SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare 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 President Muhammadu Buhari administration to lift the unlawful suspension of Twitter, respect human rights, and obey the rule of law.
“But it should never have reached this level, as the government has absolutely no justification to suspend Twitter in Nigeria. The Buhari administration ought to have complied with the Commonwealth Charter and other similar human rights standards as a matter of routine”.Kolawole Oluwadare
Part of SERAP’s urgent appeal read in part: “Ms. Scotland should 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”.
“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”.SERAP