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Commonwealth following developments over Twitter ban in Nigeria —Sec Gen

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The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland has said the Commonwealth is closely monitoring the developments around the suspension of the micro-blogging platform, Twitter, and allegations of repression of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom, as well as disregard for the rule of law in the country.

In a letter by the Commonwealth to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), dated July 22, 2021, Officer in Charge, Governance and Peace Directorate, Roger Koranteng, said Ms Scotland was also engaging the relevant stakeholders in the matter to ensure a speedy resolution.

The development comes after an Urgent Appeal by SERAP to the Commonwealth, 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.”

SERAP had in the Urgent Appeal, said “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 to the Appeal, Ms Scotland 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 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.”

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However, responding t the letter on Sunday (today), Deputy Director, SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “We are very delighted that our letter and the concerns that it raises have 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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