By Sule Aliyu, Bauchi
The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has stressed the need for the review of the national peace architecture to provide for the establishment of a National Peace Commission with the mandate to promote peace building, resolution conflicts and engendering a culture of community dialogue at all levels.
Apart from that, the NGO also called for the enactment of a bill that would regulate preaching as well as provide clear framework for the teaching of religious studies that would be in consonant with national aspiration for a peaceful and united country.
Such a commission, it said, should support communities to engage in dialogue with a view to resolving their conflicts than leaving them to spiral violent confrontations and bloodshed.
CITAD Executive Director, Yunusa Zakariya Ya’u in a press briefing in Bauchi weekend, also spoke of the need for mainstreaming peace education in the civic education component of secondary school education curriculum in the country.
Director Yunusa Ya’u, was speaking shortly after a one day Hate Speech Project Evaluation meeting held at the Command Guest House, Bauchi with participants from various tertiary institutions and peace ambassadors/peace club advisers from different states of the federation.
The Centre similarly want a review of media regulatory framework with the revision of National Broadcasting Code to ensure that agencies mainstream strategies and mechanism to effectively deal with hate speech in the regulatory frameworks.
The meeting which was also attended by CITAD partners of ministries of education from Kano, Yobe, Jigawa, Bauchi, Taraba and Gombe states said that government must be consistent, impartial, transparent and consultative in the way in which it is prosecuting its programmes, including the anti-corruption agenda.
It noted with dismay that drivers of hate speech provide the context and even the substance for the generation and spread of hate speech in the country, stressing that hate speech find outlet in social media, the print, broadcast and increasingly in religious spaces such as mosques, churches and shrines, as well as secular places of markets, schools and community halls.
“Hate speeches are centered on our religious and ethnic diversities. More than before, the country is becoming more and more divided. Unless all stakeholders work against this trend, it will continue to expand as we move towards 2019 general elections”, Ya’u said.
Such expansion, he observed, if not checked would make the elections to become violent and compound the situation already seeing many communities clashes in the country, in addition to the continuing mayhem by the Boko Haram in the Northeast.
Alhaji Yunusa Ya’u gave major drivers of hate speech that include perceived marginalization by different groups of people and communities, and the failure of government to carry on with its anti-corruption agenda in a transparent and impartial manner.
Others, he enumerated, are the opacity in government in spite of the Freedom of Information Act which make people to consume rumours as they seek to make sense of government actions, and the rising level of poverty in the country that is pushing many people to the marginal spaces of hopelessness and criminality.
Also in the drivers of hate speech are the inability of government to help communities to resolve communal conflicts such as farmer-herdsmen conflict, and deliberate capitalization by some politicians to profit from the current difficulties in the country by encouraging hate speech.
Ya’u therefore called on political parties to not only shun hate speech but also sign up to the voluntary campaign declaration on hate speech which, he said, CITAD will soon launch to commit them disqualify any politician seeking nomination on their platform for election for engaging in hate speech.
CITAD urged the National Human Rights Commission to continue with hearing and documentation of cases filed against some politicians who deployed hate speech in the 2015 general elections with a view to prosecuting them, as well as enrolls them to a halt of shame that will serve as disincentive for hate speech by politicians.
The director also called on civil society organizations to continue to promote and support inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogues aimed at promoting national understanding, inter-faith solidarity and national cohesion, as well as keep monitoring media regulatory agencies to ensure that they discharge their mandate impartially, effectively and promptly.
The meeting noted that hate speech catalyze violence only if citizens indulge it or are provoked by it, and called on people to not indulge in hate speech and not be provoked by it, as the key principle for inoculating people against hate speech that ultimately is the most effective anti-dote against hate speech.
“Unless all stakeholders work against this trend, it will continue to expand as we move towards 2019 general elections. Such expansion if not checked would make the elections to become violent “. The Centre cautioned.