Purveyors of hate speeches may soon be in for a hard time.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, has set in motion necessary arrangements for prosecution of offenders under the Terrorism Prevention Act.
Under Nigeria’s Terrorism Prevention Act, which became law in 2011 and got amended for greater effectiveness in 2013, terrorism-related offences, including harbouring or facilitating offenders, attracts sanctions including jail terms ranging from 10 to 20 years.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo first dropped hint of government’s intention to henceforth deal with authors of hate speech after a coalition of Arewa youth organoffendersizations gave Igbo residing in the north until October 1 to move out of the area.
President Muhammadu Buhari backed the move on Tuesday when he directed the security agencies to go after those threatening the nation’s unity through hate speeches.
The quit notice was withdrawn on Thursday by its authors.
Speaking with our correspondent in Abuja, the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force, Moshood Jimoh, said IGP Idris had already mapped out an action plan in addition to giving firm directives to top police chiefs for implementation of the new law across the federation.
Jimoh said: “Dealing with various aspects of the issue of hate speech dissemination on social media is essentially the responsibility of the Nigeria Police Force.
“This is because such an act is criminal in nature and the police has jurisdiction over criminal matters.
“The IGP has put in place an action plan towards dealing with this effectively.
“The aim of the police force is to ensure that anybody who engages in the use or dissemination of hate speeches is arrested and prosecuted.
“It does not matter whether they disseminate it through social media or through the conventional mass media like radio, television or any other media.
“They are culpable of an offence and they will be prosecuted,” Jimoh stated.
Waving off questions about the likely treatment of various interest groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and their counterparts in the North and South-West, he emphasised that there would not be any selective treatment of offenders, as the law is no respecter of persons.
“No organisation or individual is exempted. Anyone who infringes the law should be prepared for arrest or other consequences,” he said.
Giving further insight into the arrangements made by the police to ensure strict implementation of its action plan against hate speech, Jimoh said: “The IGP has directed all Assistant Inspectors General (AIGs) of Police and all Commissioners of Police across Nigeria, including those in charge of commands or in charge of zones, to ensure that anybody in any state who goes ahead to issue hate speech is promptly arrested and prosecuted.
“You may recall that the Vice President had made it clear to everyone that hate speech is like terrorism. Thus, we are going to charge offenders under the Terrorism Prevention Act, and people should be forewarned that it is a grievous offence to infringe on the provisions of such laws.”
Evans faces trial soon
Giving an update on police investigation of suspected kidnapper, Evans, the Force spokesman said everything was going on according to expectations.
Jimoh said: “Investigation is being rounded off. The three months given us by the court to remand him in police custody has not lapsed.
“From available indications, it is likely that he will be taken to the court before the expiration of the three-month period.”