Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) at the weekend sent a letter to Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland over the decision of the Buhari government to ban Twitter in the country.
SERAP urged her to hold the Nigerian government to account “over the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria” and the “resulting repression of human rights particularly the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom, as well as flagrant disregard for the rule of law.”
The organization asked 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.”
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In the Urgent Appeal dated June 5, 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “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 and access to information in Nigeria.”
It added 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.”
According to SERAP, “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 Urgent Appeal, copied to Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations; and Ms Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, read in part: “The Nigerian government has also called for the prosecution of those who violate its order suspending Twitter operations in Nigeria. This order for prosecution of Twitter users violates the legal rule that there should be no punishment without law.”