By MOHAMMED KAWU, Bauchi.
Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has cautioned government and those holding public offices against politics play in handling issues related to hatred and hate speech among citizens.
The Centre said that public officers, constituted authorities and entire citizens should be more cosmopolitan and avoid politics of exclusion in handling the affairs of the country.
These, CITAD said, is to avoid falling into the trap that Bahrainis found themselves, cited as a major example of sectarian hate speech which resulted to civil war happening in that country today.
CITAD, in a statement signed by its Program Officer, Isa Garba and made available to newsmen in Bauchi Friday, said government at all levels should understand that hate speech either online or offline is not a toy to be played with.
“Scholars should provide effective religious leadership that has been bestowed on them by the Almighty to refrain from anything that will either provoke or instigate their followers against others, and also condemn any hate speech or statement made by any person”, Garba said.
He said public should note that neither the actors of hate speech nor the victims have the guarantee of safety in the event of conflict resulted by hate speech; hence the need to shun hate speech and refuse to be provoke by its action.
Malam Isa Garba explained that CITAD had the beliefs that public engagement through awareness creation and sensitization that is critical in any campaign, as it campaigns against dangers inherent in hate and dangerous speech.
He revealed that CITAD conducted public sensitization in three out of the six geo-political zones of the country, namely Damaturu in Yobe, Jos in Plateau, and Enugu in Enugu states with participants engaged in the programme cut across students, youth, traditional/religious leaders, women groups, media, and civil society organizations.
According to him, participants of the sensitization programme reached consensus that dangerous speech pose danger to our peaceful coexistence , and the longer it is allowed to continue, the greater the danger to the existence of the country.
He observed that the campaign against hate speech should not remain a single organization’s job, but rather an all-out affair, as participants also suggested the need for house to house campaigns, and in schools and all public places, while religious and traditional leaders should make it a cornerstone of heredity homilies.
Garba disclosed that the hate speech CITAD recorded last month across categories such as resource control, ethnicity, religion, Biafra, dangerous recruitment, politics and herdsmen/farmers conflict with ethnicity and religion taking the lion share of the hate speech recorded.
He cited example with intra religious or sectarian hate speech which recently resulted in loss of lives and property in Katsina, Kaduna and Kano states as a result of attacks on Shiites during and after the Ashura processing conducted by the sect on the 10th of Muharram.
CITAD said that it last month (October) reported a total number of hate speech as 1,111 out of which religion and ethnicity took 750, religion taking 330 and ethnicity 420.