Systematic disinformation and hate speech campaign trended on Friday, July 17, on Twitter Nigeria with users promoting messages accusing Kanuris in general as promoters of Boko Haram ideology.
The users who used the #StopKanuriBokoHaram hashtag on the platform claimed that Boko Haram is working to return back the Kanem Empire in Nigeria.
“What is going on in Borno and Nigeria is an attempt by the Kanuris to dominate the rest of the country. There is no such thing like Boko Haram or ISWAP as an Islamic sect,” tweeted Uncle Precious (@SamuelPresh)
What is going on in Borno and Nigeria is an attempt by the Kanuris to dominate the rest of the country.
There is no such thing like Boko Haram or ISWAP as an Islamic sect.#StopKanuriBokoHaram pic.twitter.com/wq2u9PoVBg
— Uncle Precious (@SamuelPresh) July 17, 2020
Other users demand an apology from the Kanuris who they claimed Boko Haram commanders are their children. They also asked the Kanuri leaders to condemn the terror activities of the Boko Haram.
“Kanuri killing Nigerians in the name of religious or Islamic sect. Kanuri stakeholders should out to condemn killings and support the FG,” tweeted another user, Don. Salisu (@DonSalisu)
You cannot fool all the people all the time. It is a clear fight to conquer the rest of Nigeria for political gains come 2023. They don’t really want it to stop.#StopKanuriBokoHaram pic.twitter.com/ep1hkripcV
— Don•Salisu™ (@Donsalisu) July 17, 2020
However, another user with username @theKanemborno tried to counter the narrative and urged people to dissociate the nefarious activities of Boko Haram from any religion or ethnic group.
“Terrorism must be delinked from religion or tribes. No religion or tribe teaches terrorism. So many Kanuri people suffered from Boko haram terrorism. Not all Kanuris are terrorist, we are proudly Kanuri and we are not terrorist,” he tweeted.
Terrorism must be delinked from religion or tribes. No religion or tribe teaches terrorism.
So many Kanuri people suffered from Boko haram terrorism.
— The KanemBorno (@thekanemborno) July 17, 2020
Hate Speech in Nigeria
A report by Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), one of the major organisations monitoring and countering hate speech in Nigeria, said the volume of hate speech continues to grow on Nigeria’s cyberspace.
“Hate speech usually targets people on the basis of their identities, which could be religious, tribal, political, regional, gender, etc,” explained CITAD in a report.
The organisation in its 2017 annual hate speech report found that many hate speakers are from South East, “suggesting existential grievances in the region”.
The nonprofit added that between 2016 and 2017 it recorded a 19% increase in the total hate speeches it monitored.
Anti-Hate Speech Bill
Nigeria introduced “The Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill” otherwise known as “Hate Speech Bill” in 2019.
The objective of the bill as stated in it is to “to promote national cohesion and integration by outlawing discrimination, hate speeches and the establishment of an Independent National Commission for the prohibition of hate speeches and connected matters.”
The section four of the bill “prohibits the use, production, publishing, distribution, presentation, or direction of the performance of any visual or written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of such words in order to stir up ethnic hatred or from which ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against such person from an ethnic group in Nigeria.”
The bill was however severely criticised by activists and non-governmental organisations who said the bill is an attempt to silence dissident and critical views and will lead to denial of free speech.
Among the major criticisms on the bill is the death penalty for any hate speaker found inciting violence on social media.
However, the bill sponsor promised to amend some of the major sections criticised in the bill.
“The death penalty proposed in the bill will be amended by the Senate when it is subjected to legislative input at the National Assembly.
“We have followed closely arguments for and against the hate speech bill, and seen the reason why some kicked against it.
“Given the high respect which we have for Nigerians, we will make an amendment to the death penalty aspect that most Nigerians objected to so that a bill that meets their expectations is passed into law.”