Traders of Hate Speech in Search of Votes

In 2011, widespread violence trailed the presidential election in Nigeria resulting in the death of
hundreds while millions of Naira worth of property was destroyed. As preparation for the 2015 general
got underway in 2014, there was apprehension that the election could also turn out to be violent given
that politicians and their supporters were already trading inflammatory words that could incite people to
violent responses. This apprehension made a number of organizations to think of developing early
warning systems that could be used to preempt violent irruptions.
The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) decided to approach the issue by
focusing on the speech as catalyst of violence. Learning from the work of iHub Research in Kenya
which had developed a system for monitoring hate and dangerous speech in relation to the election in
Kenya, CITAD decided to replicate the system in Nigeria so as to provide a basis for a more systemic
programme for countering and neutralizing hate and dangerous speech in Nigeria.
In October 2014, we ran a pre-test version that was deployed during the Osun State. This was followed
by a pilot focusing on the party primaries in November to December, 2014. With this experience, we
held on international conference on dangerous speech on 22-23, January at the Yaradua Centre,
Abuja. The conference brought scholars, civil society activists, political actors, security and law
enforcement agencies from within Nigeria as well as from the USA and Kenya. The conference decided
that it was necessary to run the dangerous speech monitoring system as well as develop proactive
strategies for countering such speech. A national working committee on dangerous speech was also
set up.
Following this, CITAD modified the UMATI system of ihub Research, Kenya and commenced a
dangerous speech monitoring and countering system focusing on the elections. As part of the
countering, CITAD with support from NSRP and MacArthur Foundation also undertook a series of
public sensitization programmes and stakeholders engagement with media regulatory agencies as
well as law enforcement agencies and political parties. It also developed strategy that were used in
countering hate and dangerous speech in the country.

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