It has been observed that the ethnic and religious dimension which hate and dangerous speech is taking in Nigeria has the potential of truncating the 2019 general elections, if a preventive action is not put in place by the Government.
In the same view, study conducted across the country, indicated that the spread of hate and dangerous speech which become a noticeable in the country prior to the last general election, has been on an upwards movement in the recent time.
Yunusa Ya’u, executive director, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), made this observation in his remarks at a day ‘Legislative Retreat on Hate Speech’ which opening in Kaduna on Monday.
Ya’u suggested that legislative action as well as personal constraints need to be put in place by Political actors, to immediately to curb the negative coloring of along ethnic and religious lines that is now common, particularly, on the social media.
He noted that it was worrisome that regulatory agencies in the country established to enforce existing law against acts such as hate and dangerous speech are finding it very difficult as a result of various factors.
“We are happy to have members of House Committee on National Security And Intelligence of House of Representatives here today at this meeting. Hate Speech, we can remember actually started 2015, prior to the General Election.
“Worried by this trend, in our Centre, we assembled a team of Observers to monitor the frequencies, volume, and dimension of the Hate Speech, and it relationship with the survival of Democracy in the country.
“Our Centre has being working with critical stakeholders to see how to reduce the incidence, we have held such meetings with Nigerian Guide of Editors (NGE), and the Newspaper Owners, and today we are meeting your committee.
“We believe something must be done urgently to inform of legislations, or else we have face a grave danger as we head towards the 2019 general election” he stated.
Ya`u described hate speech as act that denigrate people on the basis of their membership in a group, such as ethnic or religious group that has a reasonable chance of catalyzing or amplifying violence by one group against another, given the circumstances in which it was made or disseminated.
In his speech at the occasion, Kole Shettima, MacArthur Foundation, Nigeria Office, whose group partnered CITAD, in a research on hate and dangerous speech, disclosed that his foundation resolved to partner in executing the project based on Kenya experience.
Shettima pointed out that over 1000 persons were killed in Kenya, as a result of incidence triggered by hate and dangerous speech, expressing concern that the trend is being promoted on and offline media, as well as in local Languages.
Also speaking at the occasion, Aminu S. Jaji, chairman, House Committee on National Security And Intelligence, commended the organizer of the event, pointing out that the retreat was very timely in view of increase cases of hate and dangerous speech in the country.
“Going by our Legislative Agenda, it is our fundamental responsible to ensure peace and harmony. In the National Assembly there are 350 members which cut cross the ethno-religious groupings in the country.
“Because of the mutual understanding that exist in the House, we have noted the raise in the incidences of Hate and Dangerous all over the world, Nigeria inclusive. In curbing this trend many countries have being trying to regulate the social media.
“It is in line with this, that the National Executive Council categorized hate speech as an act of terrorism, and we know that the National Assembly has a significant role to play in curbing hate and dangerous speech in the country” he added.
Jaji revealed that his Committee is out to come out to propose legislation to arrest the trend, which most of the perpetrators are hiding under Freedom of Speech to carry out.
The one day retreat was heavily attended by members of the NASS on National Security And Intelligence, and other stakeholders