We have our eyes on Nigeria over repression of rights, disregard for rule of law – Commonwealth

The Commonwealth has said it 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 and disregard for the rule of law in Nigeria.

Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Ms. Patricia Scotland, said the observation followed an appeal by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) demanding the application of “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.”

This was disclosed, yesterday, by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare.

In the appeal, SERAP had stated: “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, the Commonwealth in a letter signed on behalf of Ms Scotland by Roger Koranteng, Officer in Charge, Governance and Peace Directorate said: “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. This underscores a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments.

“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.”

Oluwadare expressed delight that SERAP’s letter and concerns it raises had 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.”

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