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Acting president Yemi Osinbajo has said hate speeches should never be permitted under the guise of freedom of expression.
He said, “We must control and insist that people don’t make utterances that are capable of disrupting the peace.”
Osinbajo spoke yesterday at a national security seminar on ‘Unity in Diversity’ organized by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Abuja.
He said every major crisis in history was preceded by hate speeches, adding that the media, especially the social media, has often been used to spread such hatred.
He also decried many false narratives used by agitators in their attempts to break up the country either along regional or ethnic lines.
He said one of the major false narratives is the argument that countries formed the way Nigeria was formed are bound to fail.
He said this is false because many countries were not formed by general consensus of the inhabitants but by accident of history.
He pointed out that another false narrative is that one particular ethnic group or religious group is more responsible for Nigeria’s problems than the other or superior to the other.
He said Nigeria would thrive better if her people de-emphasised ethnicity as they do in sports.
He also faulted the argument that the country is better off when a particular ethnic group is at the helm of its affairs, adding that those who make charges of marginalization are usually serving their personal interest.
He disagreed that corruption is possibly the worst evil that has befallen the country. Poverty, he argued, is the recipe for social crisis.
“There is no other single reason why this country is set back; it is what accounts for where we are today economically,” he said.
No country survives multiple civil wars – Gowon
Earlier, a former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon said no country survives multiple civil wars and that people should always love their country.
He said, “There is strength in our diversity, our diversity should be accommodated in our unity. Do not entertain anything that would bring about the suffering of innocent people because of unnecessary demands.”
In a welcome address, the Director General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura said the service would do whatever is possible to ensure security and peace in the country.
He warned groups or individuals who threaten national unity to desist, adding that the unity of the nation is a sacred trust to the security service.
CSOs on hate speeches
The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) Idayat Hassan said while free speech is a fundamental right, hate speech is not a right and that even the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is limited in several country’ constitution.
“The acting President is right and as a country we have to immediately do something to bring to book people spreading hate and inciting people to violence.
“This country has never experienced such vicious and provocative hate speeches as we are experiencing at this point in time on social media, electronic media and all spaces.
“We have to urgently place genuine limits to restrain the misuse of speech so as to save the rights of others,” she said.
On his part the convener of the Good Governance Team (GGT) Tunde Salman said; “Off course, freedom of expression is not synonymous with hate speech. There is clear line between the former and the latter.
“Whereas the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression is positive, hate speech is always negative and could be dangerous; especially where deliberate falsehood that demeans religious orientation, ethnic or linguistic affiliation, and or traditional or cultural institutions of other peoples are being spread. As such, there is need to track and discourage dangerous speech in Nigeria as 2019 beckons.”
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