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SERAP petitions Commonwealth, recommends sanction of Nigeria after Twitter ban

By News Desk

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, to sanction Nigeria for banning social media giant, Twitter, in Nigeria and trampling on Nigerians’ human rights.

It added that the commonwealth must also apply its Charter to hold the Nigerian government to account for the unlawful suspension of Twitter, and 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.

SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, urged Scotland to consider recommending suspension of Nigeria from Commonwealth to Heads of Government, Commonwealth Chair-in-office, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Through a statement on Sunday, the group said the suspension should also include a clause that would push the Nigerian government to take concrete measures aimed at respecting and promoting the Commonwealth’s values of human rights, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law.

According to Dare in the Urgent Appeal dated 6 June 2021, 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.

“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. 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.

“Allowing citizens to freely exercise their human rights including freedom of expression and access to information without threat of reprisal or prosecution would enable them to contribute to society on issues of transparency, accountability, good governance, integrity and human rights.

“The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria demonstrates the authorities’ determination to suppress all forms of peaceful dissent by the Nigerian people. There are well-founded fears that the human rights situation in Nigeria will deteriorate even further if urgent action is not taken to address it.

“The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is taking place against the background of repression of the civic space and harassment of media houses, and journalists who are targeted simply for performing their professional duty. The suspension of Twitter has seriously undermined transparency and accountability in government. The lack of transparency undermines the rule of law and Nigerians’ ability to participate in their own government.

“Lack of transparency and accountability, and the absence of the rule of law in Nigeria have contributed hugely to denying Nigerians their fundamental human rights. People have been targeted simply for using Twitter and peacefully exercising their fundamental human rights,” the Urgent Appeal, copied to Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres; and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet, read.

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