Buhari talks hate speech on social media in Independence Day message
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday said his government will continue to take “decisive action” against persons who spread hate speech on social media.
Although he said the government respects the rights of individuals, Buhari said abuse of technology that undermines national security will not be allowed to fester.
“Our attention is increasingly being focused on cyber-crimes and the abuse of technology through hate speech and other divisive material being propagated on social media,” Buhari said in his Independence Day broadcast.
“Whilst we uphold the constitutional rights of our people to freedom of expression and association, where the purported exercise of these rights infringes on the rights of other citizens or threatens to undermine our national security, we will take firm and decisive action.”
In recent months, a few critics of the government have been arrested, mostly on the charges of treason. Omoyele Sowore, a former presidential aspirant and the publisher of Sahara Reporters, was the latest of such persons.
He has been in detention since August when Nigeria’s secret police, Department of State Services, arrested him for calling for protests under the banner of #RevolutionNow.
Sowore’s message resonated with thousands of youthful social media users in the West African country. The Nigerian government said Sowore’s campaign was “a revolution campaign on September 5, 2019, aimed at removing the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The opposition activist was also charged with spreading false information “for the purpose of causing insult, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Although an Abuja court ordered his release last week, the government spurned the order and arraigned him again on other charges including money laundering on Monday. He still remains in DSS detention.
The handling of Sowore’s case, critics said, shows that the Buhari administration does not respect the judiciary. To their credit, the government has flouted a series of orders given by different courts concerning persons being held by security agencies.
That includes several orders on former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki and the leader of Shiites in Nigeria Ibraheem El-Zakzaky.
In all the cases, the Nigerian government always maintained that national security trumps individual liberty.
“The Sowore affair has moved beyond harassment and taken on a sinister direction,” said the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka.
However, President Buhari maintained on Tuesday that he was not averse to people “airing their grievances and frustrations”. Such, he said, must be done with “restraint, tolerance and mutual respect.”
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