Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Calls on Nigeria to take Steps to Curb Hate Speech against Igbos

Dr Noureddine Amir, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Dr Noureddine Amir, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on  Nigeria to take steps to curb hate speech against Igbos in the country.

Specifically, the Committee urged Nigeria to “take immediate action to stop and prevent the continued circulation and dissemination of the hateful song and audio message” against the Igbos.

It also called on Nigeria “to increase its efforts in systematically rejecting and condemning, including by high-level and local public officials and leaders, any form of racist hate speech, incitement to hatred and violence, and the dissemination of ideas of ethnic superiority.”

The call came at the 93rd session of the Committee on August 25, 2017 on the heels of actions under its ‘Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure’.

The Committee expressed concerns over the rise “racist hate speech and incitement to violence against the Igbo people, including through the recording and wide distribution of a song and audio message in Hausa language which describe the Igbos in hateful and derogatory terms.”

It also expressed alarm by the public ultimatum issued by a number of northern youth groups, forums, and coalitions on June 6, 2017 calling all Igbos in northern Nigeria to leave their homes by October 1, 2017. The ultimatum was however later withdrawn.

In the face of rising tension as a result of the hate speech, the Committee urged Nigeria to exercise due diligence to halt, prevent and investigate acts of racist hate speech and incitement to hatred and violence against the Igbo people, in accordance with international human rights standards, with a view to brining perpetrators to justice, punishing them adequately if convicted, and compensating victims.

The Committee also recommended that Nigeria should ensure the protection of all its citizens from ethnic hatred, and take effective measures to ensure that Igbo people can fully exercise their rights stipulated in the Convention, including the right to security of person and protection against violence or bodily harm, the right to freedom of movement and residence, and the right to own property;

It urged all authorities in Nigeria to promptly and firmly address the underlying causes of the ethnic tensions in Nigeria, with a view to avoiding repeated ethnic-based violence, and to promote intercultural dialogue between different ethnic groups based on diversity, respect, and inclusiveness.

It also invited the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to draw the attention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to the human rights situation of the Igbo in northern Nigeria.

The committee made the recommendations being aware of the tragic consequences of past conflicts among ethnic groups, including the Igbo, in Nigeria and taking into cognizance Nigeria’s membership of some regional and international bodies as well as a signatory to some international human rights instruments.