Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the Commonwealth 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.”
This was contained in an urgent appeal dated 5 June 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare addressed to Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
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.
“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.
“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 prosecution of Twitter users violates the legal rule that there should be no punishment without law.
“The principle that only the law can define a crime and prescribe a penalty (nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege) is a fundamental part of Nigerian constitutional jurisprudence.
“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.
“Respect for Commonwealth values is essential for citizens to trust Commonwealth institutions. The Commonwealth ought to take a strong stand for the protection of human rights, transparency and the rule of law in Nigeria, principles which are fundamental to the Commonwealth’s integrity, functioning and effectiveness of its institutions.
“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.”