– Mike Ejiofor (A former Director, Department of State Services)
I don’t know how they intend to monitor the social media. Maybe they have acquired new equipment. I think they also said they would be monitoring Very Important Personalities. I don’t know how they intend to do that but I believe that in a democracy, if anyone breaks the law, there are appropriate provisions of the law to deal with such issues. There are appropriate laws to prosecute someone found guilty of sedition. I don’t know the section of our constitution that provides for the punishment of hate speech, inasmuch as one would not encourage speeches that tend to divide the country. I also don’t know under what section of the law a person can be prosecuted for hate speech. But for sedition, the law is there. If anybody flouts any part of that law, there is a provision for prosecution. For me, the only way hate speech can be curbed is for the government to do the right thing.
The government should not take action or implement policies that tend to divide us. That is the only way. If you create room for people to feel divided, then you give purveyors of hate speech the opportunity to thrive. If the government is creating jobs and equal opportunities for people, there will not be an atmosphere for hate speech to thrive.
– Mrs. Opeoluwa Bankole (Sociology lecturer, Olabisi Onabanjo University Consult, Ogun State)
I believe that hate speech is harmful to the society and the government’s effort to curb hate speech in the social media is not, in itself, bad. But it must not be targeted at perceived political enemies. If it is, then it will not achieve any good thing.
Security agencies must not have any ulterior motive while pursuing this objective.
In a way, monitoring hate speech in the social media will help to control a given community which in turn will preserve the society. We should understand that left without control, hate speech in the social media can degenerate into crisis. There is a way an individual or groups of individuals can promote negative thoughts and such thoughts will negatively affect every segment of the society.
The government cannot be said to be completely wrong in trying to control the harmful aspects of the use of social media.
If it is about posts in the social media, I don’t think it is a breach of privacy.
Unlike other systems of government, the survival and growth of democracy depends on how free the people are to criticise an incumbent administration. No wonder, democracy in one country is never similar to another. Nigeria has several laws guarding against unverified comments. Nigeria has laws against cybercrimes; we also have laws against libel, slander and sedition. All that the government needs to do is to institute action against whosoever violates the provisions of these laws. It is cowardice for the government to descend so low as to promulgate another law to monitor the social media or empower law enforcement agents to monitor activities in the social media. When the majority has its way, those in the minority must not be denied the right to have their say. Section 39 of 1999 Nigeria constitution, as amended, is to the effect that the freedom of expression should not be denied.
On this note, I will refer to the case of The Speaker, Bauchi State House of Assembly vs. Danna, unreported, Appeal No: CA/J/207/2013 decided on 3/12/2014. Tur, J.C.A., held emphatically on page 60-61 as follows: “If derogatory remarks or comments are not permissible or tolerated in the Bauchi State House of Assembly, that, in itself, is a violation of the freedom of expression, to hold opinion, to receive and impact ideas, etc, under section 39 (1) of the constitution. What the appellant did also constituted an unwarranted attack on freedom to disseminate information, idea and opinions. The Speaker and members of the Bauchi State House of Assembly ought not to have slammed indefinite suspension on the respondent in this circumstance where the constituency had an interest to protect. In a democracy, conscientious objectors must be tolerated. Their right must not be trampled upon. The majority may not always be right. For example, in courts, dissenting judgments at times lay the foundation for amendment to the constitution, status or rules by the legislature. For democracy to be nurtured in Nigeria, the opposition must be heard.”
Bodmas Kemepadei (Blogger/activist)
I sincerely support the move by relevant security agencies to monitor social media posts.
As a matter of urgency, they should tackle the propagation of hate speech. We have witnessed how religion, ethnicity and regionalism among others have caused serious division in the nation today.
My reason is borne out of the fact that so many individuals are deliberately involved in the act of propagating messages aimed at stirring up conflict in the country. They do this deliberately to stir hatred towards a particular set of persons.
The social media in Nigeria has given a lot of uneducated minds a licence to be hurtful. With the increasing use of hate speech the world over and dissemination of false information from unknown sources, there is the need for caution. The way and manner people disseminate false information to one another – most especially as it touches on people’s belief system – it tells us that Nigeria is now sitting on a keg of gunpowder. If not managed, we may have to say goodbye to morality, law and orderliness.
There is therefore a need for the government to monitor such publications; it is not an infringement of our rights, but it is necessary if we must move ahead as a people, else we may one day wake up and realise that our society has become a jungle of monkeys.
The government should not just monitor social media posts but begin to build the confidence of the people. The National Orientation Agency should wake up to its responsibility. The Ministry of Information should also be up and doing.
Hate speech should be curtailed. You will agree with me that unguarded utterances have promoted ethnic division and animosity amongst Nigerians. Why then should someone oppose such a great idea which is capable of reviving patriotism?
I will counsel government to be sincere in the pursuit of this cause; it should not be an avenue to carry out a witch-hunt against opponents of government’s unfavourable policies.
I will also urge that citizens’ suggestions and contributions in the social media should be constructive and objective.
– Osazee Edigin (Public Relations Officer, Edo Civil Society Organisations)
One major reason the country is worried about censoring hate speech today is because there is tension everywhere. These tension revolve around ethnic, religious and political sensibilities. The government is presently concerned because the various tensions in the country may snowball into something unpleasant for us all. The issue of hate speech is not something the security agencies can curb. Hate speech over the years has become entrenched in the system due to the type of politics we play in this part of the world. For hate speech to be stopped, we must first identify how we got to the point where using offensive words against each other has become the order of the day. We must first look at the immediate and remote causes as well as how it grew to become the monster it is today.
The social media in other climes serve as platforms for citizens’ engagement with their governments and contribute to the socio-political growth of society. But in Nigeria, it is deployed to vent anger, hatred, antagonism and all what not. This is primarily the cause of what the political class has designed it to look at. For hate speech to be stopped, our leaders must imbibe the spirit of selflessness to serve and put the unity of the country on the front burner. They must be patriotic in the real sense of it. If our leaders practise true love for the purpose of uniting the country, the people will follow suit and there won’t be any need to indulge in hate speech.
Federal Government policies should not be lopsided in such a way as to give certain regions or ethnic groups undue advantage over others; whether in the distribution of resources or appointments. Nigerians love one another, irrespective of religion or ethnic background; this we see whenever they meet outside the country. But when we are within the country, our politicians keep reminding us about our differences in order to use our emotions for political gains. This sadly has metamorphosed into the ugly trend which has culminated into unbridled hate speech.
Source: The Punch