Country Director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Mr. Raymond Esebagbon has said that the Hate Speech Bill currently being discussed at the National Assembly is misdirected and unnecessary.
Esebagbon, a lawyer of over 25 years’ experience made his position clear at a media round table in Lagos on Validation Meeting of the Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD’s Research on Hate Speech in Nigeria.
Addressing journalists and members of the civil society groups at the meeting, Esebagbon said, “ The Anti-Hate Speech Bill in the National Assembly is misdirected and unnecessary because we already have legal framework to address hate speech.
“What they need to do is to strengthen the legal framework. We need to seek awareness about what the law has said before on hate speech.
“The media should up its game, the difference between autocracy and democracy must be spelt out. The media has a huge platform to engage anybody to help Nigeria orientate the society. The decay in the society has gone so deep. Everybody is guilty,” he said.
In her presentation, one of the facilitators, Annabel Ugwoke speaking on Understanding the Concept of Gender Based Violence with the objective of equipping the participants with knowledge of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
According to Ugwoke, Nigerian women are at the receiving end of hate speech. “Nigerian women are mostly recipients of gender-related hate speech when it concerns politics in Nigeria,” she said.
Stating further, she said, “In the run-up to the 2015 election, the National Democratic Institute surveyed hate speech against women across Nigeria.
“They used 900 observers across Nigeria’s 77 Local Government Areas finding higher levels of gender-based hate speech in the North East and South East.
“Researchers have shown that, invariably, Nigerian women are targeted in both the private and public spheres to prevent them from participating in rallies, voting and/or running as candidates.
“Studies also reveal that in some instances, gangs have been hired by politicians to stop female candidates,” she said.
Another facilitator at the discussion, Hamza Ibrahim who spoke on Understanding Hate and Dangerous Speech with the objective of enlightening participants on hate and dangerous speech and ways of identifying and deescalating it enlightened participants on various methods peddlers of hate speeches use to push falsehood. He however classified hate speech and its nature at the event.
According to him, the group has gone round Nigeria to enlighten the media and the civil society organisations on what hate speech is and why people should desist from it.
“We are delighted to be in Lagos again. We have been here to engage you on this subject and we have gone to other parts of the country as well to document challenges women are facing,” he said.
He added that, “Apart from CITAD working on hate speech, we are also combating hate speech and fake news which now constitute big danger to our democracy.”
Ibrahim however showed participants various pictures of hate speech being displayed on social media and encouraged participants to verify images before subscribing to them.