By Ajuma Edwina Ameh
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, 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.”
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.
According to her, “this underscores a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments.”
This was disclosed on Sunday by the Deputy Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Kolawole Oluwadare.
In a statement by Commonwealth, following an Urgent Appeal by 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 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.”
Responding, Ms 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 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.”
In his response 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 the 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.”
Persecondnews recalls that SERAP had in an Urgent Appeal dated June 5, 2021, urged Ms Scotland 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.”
“The suspension has the character of collective punishment and is antithetical to the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international obligations. Nigerian authorities would seem to be suppressing people’s access to Twitter to exploit the shutdown to cover up allegations of corruption, abuses, and restrict freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.”