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No safe haven for minorities in Nigeria

No safe haven for minorities in Nigeria

By Oluwafemi Ogunjobi

Forty-two men allegedly involved in homosexual acts were arrested by the police in a hotel raid. They were said to have been ‘caught in the act’, and the hotel raided was cordoned off while the investigation was carried out. In 2013, Nigeria’s then president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, criminalizing same-sex marriage with a 14-year jail term for offenders. Under this law, membership or support of gay organizations, associations or clubs carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. This law prohibits homosexuals from even meeting in groups of two or more, bans marriage or civil unions between people of the same sex and criminalises gay clubs and events.

A month after the law was passed, more than a dozen gay men were attacked in Abuja, the country’s capital. Their homes were razed, their property destroyed. In Northern Nigeria, another 12 men were in northern Nigeria were arraigned before a sharia court for allegations of gay activity. These homophobic laws affect Nigeria’s human rights records, as individuals and state institutions use this law to intimidate and harass citizens based on their sexual orientation.

Other minorities at risk

This persecution isn’t just limited to gays. Nigerian minorities are subjected to all kind of dehumanization from the state. In 2016, Okuneye Idris Olanrewaju, popularly known as Bobrisky, a cross-dressing Nigerian man who rose to national fame on account of his unusual use of Snapchat, was invited to a new media conference organised by Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), a coalition of Nigerian citizens who advocate for good governance, alongside Bashir Ahmed, the Special Assistant to Nigerian President Buhari on New Media.

But the public outrage and social media backlash due to Olanrewaju’s attendance at the conference led to Ahmed’s withdrawal from it and hindered what could have been an opportunity to foster more tolerance and acceptance in the country.

Contradicting attitude

Ironically, according to 2017 Google Trends, Nigeria ranks in the top five for searches of the term “gay sex pics” and “anal sex pics.” Further, Nigeria has a fascination with gay porn that illustrates the incoherence of Nigerian attitudes towards people with non-conforming lifestyles and identities. This ranking is not surprising in a country like Nigeria. It can be blamed on the strong relationship between the country’s religiosity and opinions about homosexuality.  A 2012 report on religion and public life by the Pew Research Center in 2010, stated that 48.3 percent of Nigeria’s population was Christian, 48.9 percent was Muslim, and 2.8 percent were followers of indigenous and other religions or unaffiliated.

In April, CNN journalist, Richard Quest, an openly gay man visited Nigeria for his popular show ‘Quest Means Business’. He was given a heroic welcome, at the airport, with numerous tweets announcing his arrival and lauding him throughout his one-week stay. It is hypocrisy that the same people who expel and abuse their own gay citizens celebrated an openly gay man.

Similarly, Bukar Ibrahim, a serving Nigerian senator, and a former northern governor, who introduced sharia law in his state, was caught on tape having sex with two women in a hotel. The senator and many Nigerians cried out that it was an invasion of his privacy. But men or women engaged in sex with one another in a hotel suffer humiliation. In addition, Bukar is a serving senator in the parliament who passed the anti-gay bill. When he was a governor, he approved sharia law that forbids all forms of adultery and fornication.

Other grave matters at hand

More than spying into what individuals do in their closets, the government should be concerned about the country’s 74-year-old president, who has been ‘missing in action’ since he travelled to the UK  to receive medical treatment for an undisclosed illness, leaving the country in grave political and economic crisis.

A shadowy cultist gang, “Badoo”, has brazenly killed more than 100 people for ritual in Ikorodu, a Lagos community since June last year – and they’re not slowing down. The notorious cult gang began operations 2016. They smash their victims’ skulls with rocks, drain their blood into a calabash, and then soak it onto a white handkerchief. Members of the gang are believed by the community to have magical powers which they use to mysteriously appear and disappear during attacks.

Nigerian police, simply put, should not be wasting their time and money on persecuting gay people while such criminal activity runs rampant. In fact, they shouldn’t be going after gay people at all.

Featured Image Source: Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

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