Facebook says it removed the account of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), from its platform for spreading hate and inflammatory speech.
The Nigerian government banned the activities of IPOB and declared it a terrorist group following its activities that include attacks on innocent people in the Southeast over its agitation for an independent sovereign state for the Igbo.
The social media giant said Kanu had repeatedly violated its community rules by instigating and supporting violence targeting Fulanis in Southern Nigeria.
In a live broadcast on Facebook, Kanu supported attacks on Fulani herders by Eastern Security Network (ESN), a militia he formed in the Southeast, to promote IPOB’s agenda.
Fulani settlements are facing different attacks and eviction notices across Nigeria following instability caused by farmer-herder conflicts, especially in the South.
Kanu used Facebook to generate and recruit online purveyors of hate speech in Nigeria, the organisation said.
A Facebook spokesperson told BBC Igbo: “In line with our rules, we removed Nnamdi Kanu’s page for repeatedly posting content that break those Community Standards, including content that violated our rules on coordinating harm and hate speech.”
This is the first time the social media platform decided to take down the account of the major hate speech purveyor in Nigeria despite many people reporting its violations of community rules, observers say.
Hate Speech Mongers
Hate speech monitors and observers have repeatedly said the accounts and groups of IPOB members are among the major fake news paddlers and hate speech mongers.
Several fact-checks done by HumAngle show that accounts run by IPOB members are among the major disinformation vehicles in Nigeria’s social media communities.
A report by Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) mentioned IPOB social media groups at the top in the list of purveyors of hate speech in Nigeria.
“Our analysis established that the speech instances occur in textual, video, pictorial and symbolic forms and 32 per cent of the offending species were ethnic-based,” CITAD observed.
Kanu and other separatist agitators have been using derogatory and abusive language against the Nigerian state and its entities, especially Fulani herders, in social media posts, CITAD said.
The organisation noted that hate speech had done disastrous damage to people, communities and countries around the world, adding that it prolonged hatred, destroyed mutual coexistence, promoted suspicion, tension and violence.
We Condemn Facebook Managers – IPOB
Meanwhile, IPOB has responded to the ban in a statement signed by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, calling
the action despicable and petty.
The statement accused Facebook of colluding with the Federal Government of Nigeria to suppress free speech.
“We strongly condemn this attitude of Facebook managers in Lagos and Abuja who collude with corrupt Nigeria government officials to suppress free flow of information via their platform,” Powerful said.
“This unconscionable and reprehensible attitude amounts to partnering with perpetrators of human rights abuses and other criminal activities masterminded by the Nigeria State against innocent citizens.
“The Fulani-controlled Federal Government and its foot soldiers – terrorist herdsmen and bandits – have continued to subjugate indigenous nations in the country, including Biafra, with the intent for conquest.
“They commit these crimes unchallenged by security operatives. They kidnap for ransom, maim and rape our women. They feed their cattle with our crops, and Facebook is saying we don’t have a right to cry out?
“Now that our Leader has started exposing the atrocities of these wolves in human clothing, Facebook have (sic) decided to be an accomplice to mass murder and oppressive tendencies of Fulani Janjaweed rulers of Nigeria,” IPOB stated.
The group asked: “Why should Facebook block the account of the leader of the largest peaceful mass movement in the world for speaking the bitter truth people are too terrified to talk about?
“We are very resolute in our resolve to restore Biafra and will not be deterred.
“If you like block all Biafran activists on your platform, we shall keep pushing on until Biafra is fully restored.”
In the last two weeks there has been tension in Nigeria’s Southeast region, where members of IPOB have mounted a campaign against herdsmen, whom they want to leave Ignoland.
In Imo State, ESN confronted the military and the police on Monday, Jan. 25, over clashes with the Fulani community and as a result the state government imposed a curfew on nine local government areas in Orlu zone where the incident occurred.
Last week, a video emerged on the internet of ESN attacks on livestock farms in Abia State and the material heightened tension across the country.
Fulanis are also facing eviction threat in the Southwest, where they are accused of kidnapping, robbery, rape, destruction of farms, among other crimes.
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