The Nigerian Bar Association has appealed to media houses and opinion leaders to exercise responsibility and professionalism in the content they publish or distribute through their platforms.
Abubakar Mahmoud, the NBA president, said in a statement that the constitutional right to free speech does not extend to hate speech.
“The NBA commits to working with the appropriate security agencies to ensure accountability for such acts,” said Mr. Mahmoud, a senior advocate of Nigeria.
“Accordingly, I have today directed the Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) and the Human Rights Institute of the NBA (NBA-HRI) to collaborate with the National Secretariat of the NBA in a unit to monitor and liaise with security agencies to ensure accountability for hate speech and incitement to identity-based hatred in Nigeria.”
The NBA said it was “deeply concerned” at the recent heightened agitation by individuals, groups, and organisations calling for the break up of the country.
While noting that the acts of hate and incitement had been disseminated through print, electronic, digital and social media platforms; the group condemned threats to the sovereign existence of Nigeria.
“Admittedly, the content of these messages do not represent the views of most Nigerians, who remain peace-loving.
“The NBA is concerned, nevertheless, that these acts of hate speech threatening secession, war and violent break up of the country have been allowed to persist to the point where they are now creating fear and anxiety amongst the people of Nigeria and sending panic signals to our neighbours and the international community.
“They have, in addition, shaken investor confidence in our country, contributing to slowing down economic and social activities.”
The NBA noted that although the recent hardship foisted on Nigerians is as a result of failure of successive governments, it was confident that Nigerians would resist the tendency to turn on one another during difficult times.
“The NBA reaffirms its belief in unity and sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We believe that the peoples of Nigeria, irrespective of diversities of identity, face common and shared everyday challenges and desire a stable and secure country based on justice, equity and the rule of law.
“The NBA is convinced that our peoples have consistently shown the capacity and desire to live together in a federation under democratically elected government, which alone can guarantee the conditions for addressing the imperfections that ail our country.”