The acting Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu has lamented over the non-prosecution of perpetrators of hate speech and election violence in Nigeria.
The NHRC boss said that the non-prosecution of these perpetrators has largely encouraged the use of hate speech in election campaigns and other related social activities.
Ojukwu said this on Monday at the Federal High Court complex in Kaduna State during the Public Hearing by the Commission.
This situation, Ojukwu said further, is detrimental to the country’s socioeconomic development.
The Commission at the Public Hearing highlighted cases of hate speeches and electoral violence which took place during and after the 2015 general elections in the North West region of the country, with a view to forestalling reoccurrence.
The history of hate speech and incitement to violence in Nigeria is a long, widespread and an unhappy one. Hate speech and the fanning of ethnic discord was linked with violence after the 2011 elections that left hundreds of people dead and thousands displaced.
The same scenario played out again during the 2015 elections where unprecedented cases of tension and violence were recorded in many parts of the country.
According to the National Human Rights Commission boss, the public hearing for stakeholders from the North West zone of the country was necessitated by series of complaints received by the commission against persons or parties alleged to have been involved in promoting hate speech and violence in the 2015 elections.
It will also serve as a proactive measure by the commission to discourage such acts as the nation prepares for another general election in 2019.
“During the 2015 general elections, the commission carried out a similar campaign against hate speech and election violence. You will recall the tension created in the polity due to hate speeches during the 2015 general elections. It took the cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure that the whole scenario did not degenerate into massive election violence like in 2011 general elections.
“In the past, violators of hate speech and election-related violence are hardly made accountable. This has encouraged the use of hate speech in campaigns and other election-related activities. The purpose of the present campaign by NHRC is to discourage use of hate speech and election violence during campaigns and other election activities as we approach the 2019 general elections,” he said.
The 2019 elections might be months away from now, but the verbal war and physical altercations in some cases between the gladiators, the political leaders and their followers seemed to be generating tension in the country. It is therefore hoped that such platforms like the public hearing will reduce election-related conflicts in the country.