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… Commonwealth says it’s closely monitoring cases of repression in Nigeria

… That it’s worried over rights to freedom, information, media freedom abuses

… Insists member countries including Nigeria have obligations to uphold freedom of expression

… And should be committed to Universal Declaration of Human Rights covenants

AMIDST public outcry over alleged human rights abuses and attempts to suppress freedom of information among others, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, has said that the Organisation is closely monitoring such developments in Nigeria. In a statement made available to newsmen yesterday, Patricia Scotland said some of those allegations being monitored include repression of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom as well as disregard for the rule of law.

She insisted that 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. According to her, “This underscores a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments.” It would be recalled that the statement was in response to an Urgent Appeal by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP urging Ms. Scotland 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”, which was disclosed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.

In the Urgent Appeal, SERAP had stated that: “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.” However, while responding, Ms. Scotland in a letter sent to SERAP, said: “I write to acknowledge with thanks, receipt of your letter dated 5 June 2021 highlighting concerns about the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.” The letter by the Commonwealth dated 22 July 2021, and signed on behalf of Ms. Scotland by Roger Koranteng, Officer in Charge, Governance and Peace Directorate, read in part: “The Commonwealth SecretaryGeneral 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 uphold 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”, he said. “We are very delighted that our letter and the concerns that it raises have caught the attention of the Commonwealth SecretaryGeneral. 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”, Oluwadare stated. SERAP’s Urgent Appeal dated 5 June 2021, read in part: “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.

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