Richard Ginika Izuora
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday, June 6, said it has sent a petition to the Commonwealth over the ban of Twitter by the federal government.
The petition was addressed to Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, urging her 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 human rights particularly the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom, as well as a flagrant disregard for the rule of law.”
The petition dated 5 June 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, 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 as well as access to information in Nigeria.”
SERAP, 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 also promote the Commonwealth’s values of human rights; transparency; accountability and also the rule of law.”
SERAP said: “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, as well as abuses; and also restrict freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.”
The Urgent Appeal, copied to Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations; as well as Ms. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, equally 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 the prosecution of Twitter users violates the legal rule; that there should be no punishment without law.
“The Commonwealth Charter recognises the right of individuals to participate in democratic processes; in particular through peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression; and access to information; which apply both offline and online.”