By Emeka Mamah, Dapo Akinrefon, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Stephanie Afer
*Injustice, insecurity fuel agitations —CJN
*We don’t want threats but action —Afenifere
*Govt’s declaration, a welcome devt —Ohanaeze
ABUJA—The Federal Government, yesterday, drew the line on hate speech in the country, saying the offence would now be seen as terrorism.
Acting President, Prof, Yemi Osinbajo, who made the declaration at the security summit for members of National Economic Council, NEC, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said technology and internet had amplified the efforts and impact of terrorists, war-mongers, secessionists and peddlers of hate speech.
Osinbajo spoke as Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, said the issue of agitations in the country would die down, if there was justice and security for every section of the country.
His declaration drew mixed reactions from stakeholders. While Afenifere urged action and not mere rhetorics, Ohanaeze Ndigbo saw it as a welcome development, which would help pull the country together.
The Acting President said: “I have spoken at a number of fora about how technology and internet have altered the nature of conflicts and war in contemporary times, enabling and amplifying the efforts and impacts of terrorists, war-mongers, secessionists and paddlers of hate speech.
“This is bad but the question we should be asking ourselves as governors, especially as chief security officers in our states or law enforcement agents, is: how can we take advantage of these same tools and technology to stay permanently ahead of those who seek to use them to create mischief and cause terror, fear and bloodshed?
“These are the conversations that we must have and at the highest level of government.
“Please permit me to comment on hate speech. The Federal Government has drown a line on hate speech. Hate speech is a specie of terrorism. As it is defined popularly, it is the unlawful use of violence or intimidation against individuals or groups, especially for political aims.
“The law on hate speech, Terrorism Act 2011, defines hate speech, among other definitions, as an act deliberately done with malice and which may seriously harm or damage a country or seriously intimidate a population.
“The intimidation of a population by words, speech is an act of terrorism and this government intends to take this matter seriously. As I have said, we have drawn a line against hate speech, it will not be tolerated, it will be taken as an act of terrorism and all of the consequences will follow.
Tasks business, political religious leaders
“I call on business, political and religious leaders, whatever your political leanings or religion or tribe or faith, to condemn in the strongest possible terms at all times hate speech that promotes violence against an individual or a group, especially when such speech comes from people of your own faith, tribe or group. Your silence in such situation can only be seen as an endorsement.”
Justice, security ‘ll reduce agitations
Speaking at the summit, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, said with justice and security, the issue of agitations will drastically reduce in the polity.
He said: “I want to tell you also that though we also say that there are two sides to a coin, in reality there are three sides to a coin. In our condition, in terms of where we find ourselves today, it is my personal view that insecurity, corruption and impunity are the three sides of the same coin which ought to be taken together holistically if we are to move the country forward.
“I want us to think about that and to carry this through. We need the support of Nigerians, particularly the Nigerian on the street who feels deprived one way or the other, rightly or wrongly.”
We don’t want threats but action —Afenifere
Reacting, Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said it was time for the Federal Government to take action against those making hate speech.
Odumakin said: “That is not a new line, he has been threatening but nobody has been moved against. There have been litany of hate speech; there have been recorded songs and videos all over the place. Is it when the country has been burned down that he would move against them? We do not want any threat anymore; we want to see action against those making hate speeches.”
Govt’s declaration, a welcome devt —Ohanaeze
In its reaction, Ohanaeze Ndigbo welcomed the declaration by the Acting President, saying it would help pull the country together.
President General of Ohanaeze, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who spoke in a telephone interview with Vanguard, said he was waiting for a bill sponsored by the Minister of Interior to the National Assembly, specifying what amounted to hate speech and how offenders would be punished.