The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has commenced public hearing into cases of hate speech and electoral violence which took place during and after the 2015 general elections.
The Ag. Executive Secretary (ES) of the Commission, Mrs Oti Ovrawah while declaring the public hearing open in Jos plateau state, lamented that reports of violent incidents, hate speech and dangerous messages which were recorded during and after the 2015 general elections are detrimental to nation building
She said the public hearing is one of the mechanism for the fulfilment of the statutory mandate of the Commission as it would provide an ample opportunity to address the myriad of complaints received by the Commission on hate speech and election related violence against persons and parties.
The NHRC head assured that all parties involved in the allegations would be given fair hearing. She was quick to add that a similar exercise will take place in other geopolitical zones across the country next year.
The Ag ES further stated that during the hearing, the Commission would exercise its powers under section 5 and 6 of the NHRC Act 1995 as amended, in line with rules 74,75 76 of the Standing Order and Rules of Procedure of the Commission.
While seeking the cooperation of all parties present at the hearing, Mrs Ovrawah said those indicted will be recommended for prosecution by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, or his counterparts in the States, and that a register of those involved in hate speech and electoral violence will be opened as a reference point and as a deterrent to those who may be nursing the idea of such heinous acts in 2019 and subsequent elections.
The NHRC Director of Monitoring Department who also doubles as the Project Coordinator on Hate Speech and Election Related Violence in Nigeria, Tony Ojukwu Esq, said the objective of the public hearing was to discourage hate speech, hold people accountable for their crimes as well as give opportunity for people to defend themselves if they are wrongly indicted.
Mr Bimbo Abimbola who represented Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD) commended the Commission for the initiative to speak boldly on hate speech. He expressed optimism that such platforms like the public hearing will reduce election related conflicts in the country.
Mr. Hamza Ibrahim, from Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), who delivered a paper at the event said the public hearing will among other things help in sensitising people on the need to desist from hate speech online.
The Project on Hate Speech and Electoral Related Violence in Nigeria presently being implemented by NHRC is sponsored by MacArtur Foundation.