SERAP Urges Commonwealth to Sanction Nigeria over Attacks on Protesters

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an urgent appeal to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Hon. Patricia Scotland, urging her to use her leadership position to apply the Commonwealth Charter to hold Nigerian authorities accountable for widespread and persistent attacks on peaceful protesters, human rights violations and abuses, corruption, impunity, as well as disregard for the rule of law.

In the urgent appeal dated October 10, 2020 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said such action by the Commonwealth will be commensurate with the gravity of the human rights abuses in the country.

The organization asked 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 respect the Commonwealth’s values of human rights, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.

It also asked the Commonwealth to urge Nigerian authorities to take measures to address the root causes of protests and longstanding injustices and socio-economic grievances that have driven people to the streets to protest.

SERAP said persistent attacks on protesters have severely constrained the ability of the people to participate in their own government, and to hold authorities and public officials accountable for alleged corruption and human rights violations and abuses, thereby causing serious hardships for ordinary Nigerians, and undermining their rights.

The letter read in part: ”The ongoing events in Nigeria demonstrate the authorities’ determination to suppress all forms of peaceful dissent and freedom of expression of 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.

”These protests are taking place against a backdrop of the failure by the Nigerian government to address persistent concerns around police brutality and impunity, corruption, lack of respect for economic and social rights of the people and disregard for the rule of law. The result has been a crisis of daily electricity outages, a struggling public education and health system, lack of access to clean water and widespread youth unemployment.

”Nigerian authorities have since 2015 promised to address police brutality and impunity but have repeatedly failed to do so. Authorities would seem to be suppressing protests to punish and intimidate people campaigning for an end to police corruption and brutality, grand corruption and impunity, human rights abuses, and disregard for the rule of law. Allowing citizens to freely exercise their human rights including to freedom of expression and peaceful protest without threat of reprisal or attack would enable them to contribute to society on issues of transparency, accountability, good governance, integrity, and human rights.

”The Commonwealth Charter recognises the inalienable right of individuals to participate in democratic processes, in particular through peaceful protests and freedom of expression in shaping the society in which they live and for these rights to be protected and respected.

”SERAP therefore urged the Commonwealth to establish a mechanism to visit Nigeria to monitor and report on human rights violations and abuses, absence of transparency and accountability, and persistent disregard for the rule of law, and to get to the root of the facts and circumstances of such abuses, with a view to ensuring full accountability. Publicly condemn reports of human rights abuses, absence of transparency and accountability, and put pressure on the government to take preventive measures to end impunity in the context of its response to peaceful protests, including #EndSARS protests.”