A group of United Nations human rights experts on Friday expressed concern over the recent hate speech and incitement to violence in Nigeria, saying perpetrators should be investigated and prosecuted.
They deplored a Hausa-language hate song and an audio message being circulated on the Internet and on the social media, ordering Northern Nigerians to destroy the property of Igbo people and kill anyone who refused to leave the region by October.
The UN activists also described the three-month ultimatum given by some youths in the North to the Igbo to leave the region as a “grave concern.”
The ultimatum was issued on June 6, 2017, by a coalition of pan-Northern youth groups.
One of the groups, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, led by Shettima Yerima, had called for sustained and coordinated campaigns to remove Igbo people from the Northern region.
The ultimatum given to the Igbo people to leave the North had however been withdrawn following national condemnation.
While condemning the scenario, the experts recommended that any incident of hate speech and incitement to violence should “be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted and punished.”
The experts, who said this in a statement sent to Saturday PUNCH by email on Friday, advised the Federal Government to take a firm action against hate speech and incitement to violence in the country.
They include the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Mutuma Ruteere; Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Mr. Fernand de Varennes; and Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Ms. Anastasia Crickley.
The experts said, “We are gravely concerned about this proliferation of hate messages and incitement to violence against the Igbo and their property, especially considering the previous history of such violence.
“The government must be vigilant, as hate speech and incitement can endanger social cohesion and threaten peace by deepening the existing tension between Nigeria’s ethnic communities.”
The experts said that some local and national figures, as well as some media representatives, had publicly denounced any form of hate speech and incitement, but added that other officials should follow suit.
The statement said, “We are deeply concerned that some prominent local leaders and elders have not condemned the ultimatum, hate speech, and the perpetrators.
“Those to be prosecuted and punished include people behind the ultimatum and those responsible for the creation, publication, and circulation of the hate song and audio message.”