THE National Human Rights Commission (NHRC )has expressed concern over the rise in hate speech across the country, fueled by politicians seeking political patronage.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission Tony Ojukwu, SAN, expressed this concern in Abuja, ahead of the Gubernatorial and State Assembly polls on Saturday.
“This trend haz led to ethnic and religious sentiments, being used to create division, fear, and hatred among different groups“ he said.
He lamented that the menace had also crept into places of worship, where religious leaders have joined “the unholy enterprise of spreading hate speeches”.
”The use, and misuse of social media to spread ethnic and religious hate-laced messages is also worrisome, with far-reaching and complex implications.
”These incidents can lead to violence and tension, between different religious and ethnic groups, disrupt social, cultural, and religious harmony, and affect rights to associate, assemble, freedom of movement, and the right to live in any part of the country.
It can also lead to a breakdown of law and order, increasing vulnerabilities and risks, including death, internal displacements, kidnapping, drug use, recruitment into terrorist activities, and other forms of human rights and humanitarian concerns” he said.
Ojukwu reiterated that Nigeria is a party to regional and international human rights instruments that reinforce and guarantee. everyone’s right to association.
He added also right to, assembly, residence, expression, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as guaranteed.
“The commission affirms that Sections 38 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) protect these rights.
”In addition, Nigeria’s Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 criminalises the use of the internet to send offensive messages, or post messages that are intended to cause harm, fear, or distress, Individuals who engage in hate speech online can face severe consequences” he said.
He therefore called on the government to take all steps to reaffirm its commitment to the secular nature of the Nigerian State under section 10 of the Constitution.
“It should protect all persons from the violation of their right to freedom of residence, association, assembly, political party, or association of choice, freedom of thought.
He therefore, urged all concerned, to take urgent steps to stop these divisive tendencies.
According to him, the Commission was worried and concerned about the impact this can have on the 2023 General elections, and beyond.
”It is therefore imperative that we address this urgently, because disseminating ideas that project the supremacy of one tribe or religion over another or incite violence on one religion or tribe against others constitute a crime and violate the 2022 Electoral Act.
”The commission confirms that under Sections 40 and 43 of the Constitution, every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he/she may form or belong to any political party, trade union, or other associations for the protection of his/her interests.
”Every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property, and no movable or immovable property owned by any person in Nigeria can be acquired compulsorily, or such a person dispossessed of such a property without payment of compensation” he said
He warned that anyone caught engaging in hate speech, would henceforth face severe consequences, under the relevant laws. (NAN)