A group of United Nations human rights experts has asked the Federal Government to be vigilant and proactive in the light of tension generated by hate speeches and ethnic standoffs in the country.
The experts also deplored a hate song and audio message being circulated on the internet and on social media.
The experts are Mr Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, and Ms. Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“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 said.
“The 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.”
An ultimatum was issued on 6 June 2017 during a press briefing by the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum in the city of Kaduna asking Igbos to leave the north.
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 any incidents of hate speech and incitement to violence had to be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted and punished. “This includes the people behind the ultimatum and those responsible for the creation, publication and circulation of the hate song and audio message,” they added.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the 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 address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.