Last week, residents of Jiwa community in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) witnessed a ceremony marking the solemnisation of a gay marriage in the area. DAVID ADUGE-ANI reports that the ceremony was however cut short by the intervention of men of the Nigeria police who promptly arrested the suspects.
On Saturday February 6, 2016 a popular hotel in Jiwa Community of Abuja, King’s Land Hotel hosted two male guests who were there to celebrate their marriage, otherwise known as same-sex marriage. According to our findings, the stage was already set with the hall decorated awaiting the commencement of the ceremony. At about 5.30 pm many invited guests were already seated for the occasion, with invited guests, including their sponsors, the chairman of the occasion and other guests in their hundreds awaiting the commencement of the ceremony.
However just as the celebrants were emerging from the car that conveyed them to the venue and were about taking their seats at the high table, men of Nigeria Police Force drafted from the Gwagwa Police Station swooped down on them and promptly arrested them. The suspects who live in Jiwa Community are said to be indigenes of Kaduna State. Eyewitnesses told our reporter that many other persons, including their sponsors, chairman of the occasion and the owner of the hotel were equally arrested during the raid.
LEADERSHIP Weekend also gathered that men of the Nigeria Police Force, Gwagwa Division (AMAC) had earlier gotten information about the marriage that was to take place in the area, and had therefore sent a team of plain-clothed policemen to keep surveillance of the area. It was gathered that the names of the two men were given as Abdul Lawal who is supposed to be the husband, while Umar Tahir posed as the wife. The sponsors of the marriage according to our findings are Abubakar Tahir and Mohammed Sani.
It would be recalled that on January 7, 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Bill which outlaws same sex marriage. The signed bill says the gays; lesbians in Nigeria will risk a 14-year jail term if they do not retrace their steps and renounce such marriage. Also, any person who operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations directly or indirectly will earn a 10-year imprisonment. Those who administer, witness, abet or aid the solemnisation of a same sex marriage are going to bag a 10-year jail term.
The Nigerian Senate had previously passed the bill in November 2011, while lawmakers in Nigeria’s House of Representatives affirmed the decision by the Senate on May 29, 2013. According to some abstracts, obtained by the Act reads: “A marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex: (a) is prohibited in Nigeria; and (b) shall not be recognised as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.
“A marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex by virtue of a certificate issued by a foreign country is void in Nigeria, and any benefit accruing there-from by virtue of the certificate shall not be enforced by any court of law. “A marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex shall not be sole nixed in a church, mosque or any other place of worship of Nigeria. “No certificate issued to persons of same sex in a marriage or civil union shall be valid in Nigeria. Only a marriage contracted between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria.
“The registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, their sustenance, processions and meetings is prohibited. “The public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly is prohibited. ”The Act also stipulates the volume of the sanctions awaiting the violators of the new law. “A person who enters into a same sex marriage contract or civil union commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 14 years imprisonment. “A person, who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations directly or indirectly makes public show of same sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.
“A person or group of persons who administers, witnesses, abets or aids the solemnisation of a same sex marriage or civil union or supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment. “The High Court of a State or of the Federal Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction to entertain matters raiding from the breach of the provisions of this Act.”
Under existing Nigerian federal law, sodomy is punishable by jail, but this bill legislates for a much broader crackdown on homosexuals and lesbians, who already live a largely underground existence. Homosexual acts are still a crime in 38 African countries, where most people hold conservative religious views.
In 2011, the US and UK hinted that they could withdraw from countries which did not respect homosexual rights on the socially conservative continent. The threat has helped hold back or scupper such legislation in aid-dependent nations like Uganda and Malawi.
Recently scores of Nigerian gay activists living in London stormed the Nigerian High Commission to pass on to President Buhari and government the over 65,000 signatures they were able to gather demanding that Nigeria repeals its ‘archaic’ anti-gay law. According to them, Nigeria has one of the harshest anti-gay laws out of the 76 countries that currently criminalise LGBT people. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill punishes same-sex “amorous relationships” with 10 years in prison. It also prohibits same-sex marriage with up to 14 years and jails members of LGBT equality or advocacy groups for 10 years.
The author of the Care2 Petition, Aderonke Apata, said: “Since the insidious 2014 anti-LGBT law was passed in Nigeria, there have been waves of police arrests and torture, anti-LGBT mob attacks, public whippings, evictions from homes, harassment and discrimination against ‘suspected’ LGBTs. Equality advocacy organisations and activists in Nigeria are not spared mistreatment.
“Growing up in Nigeria, I was unable to disclose my sexuality, yet unable to hide it. The culture in Nigeria makes it clear that being gay or transgender is a sin, a sentiment that is fuelled by homophobic messages from faith communities, political leaders, families, and schools. I took these messages in, identified with them, and carried the shame of being a lesbian woman in Nigeria. I was arrested, tortured and extorted by the Nigerian Police. I demand a repeal of this toxic law.”
Also there are renewed efforts by influential rights activists in the United States to instigate the home government and coerce Nigeria into reversing its anti-gay law as Buhari recently visited the country.
In a veiled manner, lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have intensified pressure at forcing Nigeria’s Buhari-led Federal Government to revisit the law. Proponents of LGBT rights are syndicating targeted articles with a view to raising the tempo of the discourse. Some of the social media campaigns specifically accuse the U.S’ black and African activists, who are opposed to same-sex marriage, of double-speak and hypocrisy in their human rights stance.
One of the articles written by Brandson Ellington Patterson, an editorial fellow at Mother Jones’ San Francisco bureau, argued that “every chain must be broken “if freedom is to be achieved for all black people.” Mother Jones is a non-profit news outlet that delivers reports on urgent issues in the U.S.
According to Patterson, on social media, “I have seen black people imply that marriage equality is a frivolous concern, and that gay people shouldn’t have received the right to marry before black people got the right to walk down the street without being shot by the police. I’ve seen black people argue against gay marriage by pointing out that it’s still not legal to smoke weed in most of the United States. Then there are those who reject gay marriage and homosexuality as a sin. Despite steady growth across the entire U.S. population, support for same-sex marriage among black Americans remains in the minority, and is lower among black Protestants than all other religious groups except white evangelicals.”
Confirming the Abuja incident the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) FCT Command, ASP Anjuguri Manza told LEADERSHIP Weekend that his men swooped into action after getting information about the marriage. “We got information earlier in the day that the two men were organising a gay marriage ceremony in Jiwa community. However our men have to mobilise and get the suspects arrested. At the moment the two suspects, their sponsors, including the owner of the hotel, where the ceremony took place have been arrested, detained while more investigations are being conducted. We will charge the suspects to the high court as soon as the appropriate investigations have been concluded on the matter,” he said. ASP Manza however warned that the FCT Police Command would continue to arrest and charge to court, perpetrators of such illegal acts in any parts of the territory where it occurs.