The United Nations in commemoration of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day has charged Nigerians to abstain from hate speech as they approach the 2023 polls, stating this could create a tense situation and cause harm.
Every year, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed on January 27 to reflect on the atrocities inflicted by Adolf Hitler, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated six million Jews. The day commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in January 1945 from Nazi control.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Matthias Schmale, gave the charge on Thursday, in Abuja, during a press conference in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, with the theme, “It started with words: How hate speech can cause real harm.”
Schmale admonished that, the internet has supercharged such risks, creating a sequences which mostly affects women and girls.
“In Nigeria, with national elections imminent, we must be watchful for any upsurge in hate speech and disinformation, particularly if tensions were to rise between political, regional, or ethnic groups.
“We must be vigilant because words can be weaponize ed, which might lead to physical harm. From historical experience, we know that atrocities have been preceded by hate speech. The Holocaust is, of course, the starkest example of this. But the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica also serve as warnings to us.
“Hate speech is a threat to our cherished values, to the cohesion of our societies, and the lives of our most vulnerable, especially women and girls. Undoubtedly, the internet and social media have amplified such risks. We need to strengthen the resilience of our young people against the ideologies of hatred and educate them on the dangers of disinformation.”
The UN Resident Coordinator added, “I call on all stakeholders in Nigerian society to stand up and speak out against instances of hate speech and discrimination. Each of us can play a role in countering this scourge and ensuring that all people enjoy the protections and rights for which the United Nations stands.”
In his message, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said, “As we mourn the loss of so many and so much, we also recognise that the Holocaust was not inevitable. No genocide ever is.
“It was the deafening silence—both at home and abroad—that emboldened them. The alarm bells were ringing from the very beginning; hate speech and disinformation; contempt for human rights and the rule of law; the glorification of violence and tales of racial supremacy; disdain for democracy and diversity.”