Groups want law to curb hate speech in Nigeria

National Assembly
National Assembly

The Muslim Students’ Society Of Nigeria (MSSN) said it has submitted the draft for a law against hate speech to the Nigerian government.

The group disclosed this on Wednesday at a gathering in Abuja attended by other groups, including a representative of American pro-democracy group, International Republican Institute (IRI).

The theme of the gathering was: “Tolerance and Peaceful Coexistence: To curb hate speech in the lead up to the 2019 general election.”

MSSN urged the Nigerian government to pass a law against hate speech in the country.

National Ameer of the group, Muhammad Muhammad, said he believes there is currently no law in the country that can be used in prosecuting hate speech.

He said this is bad for the nation.

According to him, the kind of hate speeches going around among politicians, ordinary citizens and even within the media calls for concern.

“So that got us up into action and we began the process and we collaborated with another organisation that is very good at putting up bills, and they proposed a bill for us. The copy of the bill is with the Minister of Internal Affairs for now,” Mr Muhammad said.

Another group, Connected Development (CODE), also decried the menace of hate speech and called on the youth to foster unity and co-existence by avoiding hate speech, especially as the nation moves towards the 2019 general election.
CODE’s founder, Hamza Lawal, said it is essential for the government to propose a bill to curb hate speech, while noting the youth need to unite in purpose for the development of Nigeria.

“Once young people have united themselves, then older politicians can even come and learn from us because there is a deliberate attempt by the political elite to keep us disunited,” he said.

“Violence does not just happen, there are threats, there are issues that happen before all that,” he said.

Mr Lawal said it is important for Nigerian youth to show that they can proffer solutions, noting that it is the corrupt politicians that were trying to propagate hate speech.

Ojugo Onyeluka of Africa Business Roundtable said the purpose of hate speech is to cause mayhem, stressing that it has no benefits.

“Young Nigerians need to know that the impact of the hate speech is always replicated by some selfish elements, some of this people we call our elders divide us because of millions so that they can achieve their selfish aims,” Mr Onyeluka said.

He also said government needs to pass laws that will address hate speech because the phenomenon leads to violence and other things.

“Imagine a governor saying he wants the head of a senator? Those things should not be happening in Nigeria of the 21st Century. Lives are being lost to hate speech.

“Even some of the insurgency in the North-east can be linked to hate speech. The riots that we see in Kano and a couple of all these places are due to hate speech. So it’s very important that we curb it now,” he said.

He said curbing the menace of hate speech should be a collective responsibility, just like the war on corruption.

Also speaking, the resident programmme director, IRI, Sentell Barnes, said: “This is a reminder that there is only one Nigeria here and the goal is how Nigerians can make it stronger.

“So there is no reason to call people names. Their goals should be ‘what can we do to move Nigeria forward?’, and then what policies do we have?

“Politics should be for people who want to serve, want to grow, give more to Nigeria.”

Mr Barnes said young Nigerians will be the ones to dictate the future of their country, therefore they should vote for leaders who will serve the people.

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