By Olalekan Adetayo
The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday read the riot out to proponents of hate speech in the country, saying they were engaging in terrorism.
Osinbajo spoke at the National Security Summit organised by the National Economic Council at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The council, which is chaired by the Acting President, has all the state governors and some relevant ministers as members.
While describing the intimidation of a population by words as an act of terrorism, Osinbajo said the Federal Government would henceforth take the matter seriously.
Osinbajo vowed that whoever engaged in hate speech henceforth should be prepared to face all the consequences associated with terrorism.
He urged leaders at all levels to condemn hate speech, adding that remaining silent on the matter could be interpreted to mean endorsement.
Osinbajo said, “The Federal Government has today drawn the line on hate speech. Hate speech is a species of terrorism. Terrorism as it is defined popularly is the unlawful use of violence or intimidation against individuals or groups especially for political ends.
“The law, that is the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (as amended), defines terrorism as an act which is deliberately done with malice which may seriously harm or damage a country or seriously intimidate a population.
“The intimidation of a population by words is an act of terrorism and this government intends to take this matter very seriously. As I have said, we have drawn a line against hate speech, it will not be tolerated, it will be taken as an act of terrorism and all of the consequences will follow it.
“I call on all business, religious and political leaders, whatever your political leaning, your religion or tribe or faith to condemn in the strongest possible terms at all times, hate speech.
“When a speech promotes violence against an individual or group, especially when such comes from people of your own faith, tribe or group, your silence in such situations can only be seen as an endorsement.”
Osinbajo said hate speech and the promotion of the same, throughout history, succeeded in achieving their barbarous ends by the silence of influential voices from the aggressor communities.
He said when leaders in communities that “speak in such a manner as to create dissension or to intimidate a population are quiet, they do a great disservice to the nation.”
The Acting President said, “Silence in such situations can only be seen as an endorsement.
“Hate speech and the promotion of the same through history from Nazi Germany and the extermination of Jews to the Rwandan genocide succeeded in achieving their barbarous ends by the silence of influential voices.
“The silence of leaders at this time -in our country-will be a grave disservice to our country, its peace and its future.
“This is why I urge all our political leaders, religious leaders, business leaders and all of those who truly want a united country and a country where there will be peace and security, to ensure that we do not tolerate, by our silence, the hate speech that we hear every day in our community,” he said.
As part of government’s efforts to secure the country, Osinbajo said he had on Wednesday directed the Inspector-General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, to constitute the Community Policing Programme.
By the directive, he said the government expected that the programme which had been designed by the police would take root.
He said all police formations across the country would be expected to engage their communities in the creative ways the police had prescribed in the Community Policing programme.
“We expect that this will be a fundamental change in the way that policing is carried out in our country and that it will yield the kind of results that we expect.
“The Buhari administration has already set a pattern of engagement and collaboration with governors, and we are committed to maintaining this atmosphere of frank engagement.
“You are aware that this was not always the case; and prior to this administration, the National Economic Council had not exactly fulfilled its obligations as an economic council because of the unending series of conflicts between the Federal and State Governments over very many issues.
“But we are determined to do things the right way, to be transparent in our dealings with you, to respect your views, regardless of partisan or ideological affiliations, and to join hands with you to create a positive change in the lives of all our people,” he said.
Osinbajo said the three priority areas identified by the present administration – security, economy and anti-corruption fight – were closely linked.
He said, “Without guaranteeing security, we will struggle to attract the kind of investments, domestic or foreign, needed to create jobs and prosperity for our people.
“And when those jobs are hard to find and keep, our people will naturally be more susceptible to the lure of criminal activity and this means that governments that are serious about fighting crime ought to be extremely serious about fighting poverty…
“Corruption and security are also interconnected. We are all witnesses to how, only a few years ago, much of north-eastern Nigeria was at risk to falling completely into the hands of Boko Haram, largely because widespread corruption in the military had robbed our troops of the resources and morale needed to fight and defeat the terrorists.”
While saying that leaders were daily confronted by the disturbing reality of Nigeria’s security situation, Osinbajo said it was time to confront the problem with utmost seriousness.
He said his expectation was that participants at the retreat would focus on solutions, instead of rehashing the problems.
Osinbajo promised that the present administration would not relent in its vision to ensure a secure country, in which all citizens could confidently aspire to achieve their dreams and ambitions.
In his remarks, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, pledged the commitment of the judiciary to do things differently in order to have a good Nigerian society where peace and justice would reign.
Onnoghen said insecurity, corruption and impunity ought to be tackled holistically if the nation must move forward.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Abdulaziz Yari, noted that about 99.9 per cent of cases of insecurity were recorded in states as only few cases were witnessed in Abuja.
The Zamfara State Governor said government must tackle corruption and insecurity.