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Use of Hate Speech rise in Nigeria – NHRC

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Politicians now propagate the use of hate speech to gain political influence.

The surge in hateful speech throughout the nation, which is being fostered by politicians looking for political influence, has drawn the attention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The NHRC executive secretary, Chief Tony Ojukwu, SAN, in Abuja, prior to the gubernatorial and state assembly elections, voiced concern that some religious leaders had joined the cruel activity of disseminating hate speeches, allowing this danger to permeate places of worship. According to the commission, this has allowed people to use ethnic and religious tensions to advance their own agendas of fear, hatred, and separation.

He pointed out that utilizing and abusing social media to promote messages filled with racial and religious bigotry is harmful to the society, with far-reaching and complicated consequences. According to him, these instances can result in conflict and hostility between various religious and ethnic groups involved, it can also undermine social, cultural, and religious unity, and impair freedoms to associate, gather, freedom of movement, and the freedom to reside in any region of the nation.

Nigeria is a member of a community that supports human rights endeavors.

To emphasize this, he said that Nigeria is a member of regional and international human rights agreements that safeguard and strengthen people’s freedom of association, gathering, residence, speech, opinion, conscience, and religion. According to the Commission, these liberties are safeguarded by sections 38 and 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended. He also stressed the serious penalties that might result from engaging in hate speech online, using the Nigerian Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 as an example.

Furthermore, he urged the government to do all in its power to restore the secular character of the Nigerian state as established in Section 10. His primary idea was that everyone should be able to vote for whoever they want, wherever they are, regardless of where they live. This includes protecting people’s right to freedom of residence, the autonomy of relationships, assembly without restrictions, freedom of political party or alliance of choice, liberty of speech, conscience, and religion.

Portraying the superiority of a tribe or religion over another is a crime.

All parties concerned are urged by Nigeria’s chief human rights official to take immediate action to halt these dangerous tendencies. As spreading ideas that portray the superiority of one tribe or religion over another, or instigate assault on one tribe or faith against others, is illegal and violates the 2022 Electoral Act, he said the Commission is worried about the influence this could have regarding the 2023 General elections and even beyond, and it is thus vital that they address this promptly.

Moreover, he noted that the Commission affirms the rights of individuals to freely create and join political parties, labour unions, and other organizations for the purpose of promoting and protecting their interests, as guaranteed by Articles 40 and 43 of the Constitution. In Nigeria, everyone has the constitutional right to purchase property and keep it as their own, and no one may be forced to give up possession of their movable or other non-movable property without compensating the owner.

Anyone engaging in hate speech will face repercussions.

Lastly, they cautioned that this condition might result in a collapse of law and order, raising vulnerabilities and risks such as fatalities, internal displacements, kidnappings, drug usage, onboarding into terrorist operations, and other human rights as well as humanitarian issues. As this is a serious concern regarding the use of hate speech in the nation. Therefore, they caution that anybody engaging in it would face severe repercussions under the law while reiterating its commitment to respecting human rights and defending everyone’s freedom to express themselves freely.

Related Link

NHRC: Website

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