The United Nations (UN) is not glossing over hate speeches and other anti-Igbo actions in Nigeria. The global body, which reviewed ethnic trends in Nigeria on Monday, asked the Federal Government to investigate and prosecute persons involved in issuing hate speeches against people of Igbo extraction in the country.
The United Nations Human Rights through the Office of the High Commissioner, stressed that the ultimatum that Nigerians of Igbo ethnic group should leave certain parts of the country was of “grave concern.”
In a statement made available to journalists yesterday in Abuja, the UN group of human rights experts “deplored a hate song and audio message being circulated on the internet and on the social media.
“The Hausa language audio message urges northern Nigerians to destroy the property of Igbo people and kill anyone who refuses to leave by October 1, the same date given in the ultimatum.
“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 experts emphasized.
The experts are Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance; Mr. Fernard de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, and Ms. Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that addresses either special country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
They said: “The Nigerian government must be vigilant, as hate speech and incitement can endanger social cohesion and threaten peace by deepening the existing tensions between Nigeria’s ethnic communities.”
Similarly, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in another statement titled “Prevention of Racial discrimination, Including Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures”, Decision 2 (93) on Nigeria warn of similar consequences.
The body deplored rising hate speeches and songs, including the ultimatum, as well as the seeming lethargy by the government to tackle the problems effectively.
The ultimatum was issued on June 6, 2017, during a press briefing by the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum in Kaduna.
The human rights experts noted that some local and national figures, as well as some media representatives, had publicly denounced any form of hate speech and incitement, but said other officials still needed to follow suit.
“We are deeply concerned that some prominent local leaders and elders have not condemned the ultimatum, hate speech and the perpetrators,” the experts stressed.
“We call on the government, media and civil society representatives, and local and religious leaders, to reject and condemn hate speech and incitement to violence unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms.”
The UN experts said that any incidents of hate speech and incitement to violence had to be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted and punished.