United Nations human rights experts have demanded for the prosecution of those behind the quit notice ultimatum issued to the Igbo to leave the north by October 1.
It will be recalled that on June 6, some youth groups in the north led by Arewa Consultative Forum asked the Igbo to vacate the region within three months.
The groups also threatened to take over the property of the Igbo in the north.
However, the groups withdrew the ultimatum last Thursday, a few days after President Muhammadu Buhari declared that Nigerians were free to live and reside anywhere in the country.
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The experts, Mutuma Ruteere, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues, and Anastasia Crickley, chairperson of the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, described the ultimatum as a grave concern.
They also condemned a hate song and audio message being circulated on the internet and on social media targeting the Igbo.
According to a statement issued by the experts, the Hausa-language audio message urges northern Nigerians to destroy the property of Igbo people and kill anyone who refuses to leave by 1 October, the same date given in the ultimatum.
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The statement reads: “We are gravely concerned about this proliferation of hate messages and incitement to violence against the Igbo and their property, especially considering the previous history of such violence.”
“The government must be vigilant, as hate speech and incitement can endanger social cohesion and threaten peace by deepening the existing tensions between Nigeria’s ethnic communities.”
The human rights experts said though some local and national figures, as well as some media representatives had decried publicly any form of hate speech and incitement, other officials still needed to follow suit.
The UN experts said: “We are deeply concerned that some prominent local leaders and elders have not condemned the ultimatum, hate speech and the perpetrators.”
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“We call on the government, media and civil society representatives, and local and religious leaders, to reject and condemn hate speech and incitement to violence unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms.”
The UN experts said any incidents of hate speech and incitement to violence had to be investigated and the perpetrators must be brought to book.
“This includes the people behind the ultimatum and those responsible for the creation, publication and circulation of the hate song and audio message,” they added.
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