The Commonwealth has said that it is monitoring developments in Nigeria over concerns raised by the country’s citizens on the suspension of Twitter.
This organisation made this known in a response to an “urgent appeal” by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project.
A copy of the letter obtained by our correspondent was signed by Commonwealth’s Officer in Charge Governance and Peace Directorate, Roger Koranteng.
In the appeal, SERAP had urged the Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, 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.”
The Nigerian government had on June 4, 2021, suspended Twitter barely two days after the social media platform deleted a tweet by the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
However, many Nigerians have bypassed the Twitter suspension by using a Virtual Private Network.
Responding, the letter read, “The Commonwealth Secretary-General has been following the developments in Nigeria very closely and she is engaging the relevant stakeholders.
“All Commonwealth member countries 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.
“Please be assured that the Secretariat will remain engaged with the authorities in Nigeria and encourage a speedy resolution of this matter.”
In the urgent appeal, SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, accused the Nigerian government of abusing human rights and freedom of expression.
Part of the appeal read, “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.
“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.
“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.
“The Nigerian government has also called for the prosecution of those who violate its order suspending Twitter operations in Nigeria. This order for the prosecution of Twitter users violates the legal rule that there should be no punishment without law.
“The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria demonstrates the authorities’ determination to suppress all forms of peaceful dissent by the Nigerian people. 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.
“The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is taking place against the background of repression of the civic space and harassment of media houses, and journalists who are targeted simply for performing their professional duty.
“The suspension of Twitter has seriously undermined transparency and accountability in government. The lack of transparency undermines the rule of law and Nigerians’ ability to participate in their own government.”