BY OKEY NDIRIBE, Sam Eyoboka & Victoria Ojeme
Abuja—Leading western countries piled pressure on the Federal government, yesterday, following President Goodluck Jonathan’s signing of the Same-Sex Prohibition Act 2014. The latest country is the United States of America, whose Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr James Entwistle threatened that the United States will scale down its support for HIV/AIDS and anti-malaria programmes in response to the Federal Government’s position on the gay rights issue.
Member countries of the European Union and Canada have expressed their objection to the law but United States Ambassador to Nigeria said he was worried about “the implications of the anti-same sex marriage law which seems to restrict the fundamental rights of a section of the Nigerian population.”
This came as a former Nigerian Ambassador to US, Dahiru Suleiman, yesterday, described homosexuality and lesbianism as “animalistic and degrading to humanity.”
Also yesterday Christians in the northern part of Nigeria under the aegis of Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 northern states an Abuja, hailed President Goodluck Jonathan for signing into law the anti-gay bill, urging him to ignore criticisms from Western nations, saying all religions in the country are united in their condemnation of same-sex marriage.
In a reaction to the recent move of government to outlaw homosexuality from this country, the Public Relations Officer of Northern CAN, Elder Sunday Oibe told Vanguard that Christians from the North and their counterparts in other religions have unanimously expressed gratitude to the president and the National Assembly for passing the Anti-Same Sex Marriage despite opposition from Europe and the US.
Speaking to news men in Abuja, yesterday, the American envoy said his interpretation of the new law was that “it could negatively affect the nation’s fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic”. Although the US envoy denied that his country plans to impose sanctions on Nigeria, he said: “We and other donors are looking at the issue of funding for HIV/AIDS. As you know, we put millions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“Although I am not a lawyer, I read the bill and it seems to me that it may put some restrictions on what we can do to help fight HIV/AIDS in this country. These are the issues we are looking at as we consider the law.”
The signing of the Same sex Prohibition Act by President Jonathan on January 7, 2014 has provoked negative reactions from member countries of EU, Canada and now the United States all of whom have alleged that the law is a violation of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians with same sex orientation.
Ambassador Entwistle said he was aware that “the issue of same-sex marriage was very controversial all over the world, including within the United States where 17 states out of 50 had endorsed it, but others still reject its legality”. According to him, “the issue that we see and I am speaking as a friend of Nigeria is that as I read the bill, it looks to me that it puts significant restrictions on the freedoms of assembly and expression; in my opinion which applies especially in advanced democracies, once government begins to say something in these areas, freedom no longer applies. It seems to me that this is a very worrisome precedent.”
A lecturer at Covenant University, Professor Kayode Soremekun said: “What is happening demonstrates the low level that the US treats its relation with Nigeria”.
He said every Nigerian should feel insulted that the US is threatening to stop assisting us on areas where we have the resources and human capacity to contend.
Said Professor Soremekun, “even when the West had their misgivings about Russia’s anti-gay law, they have not gone threatening them with sanctions and punitive action. We are not reckoned with in the international arena where we are getting assistance for HIV/AIDS, Malaria treatment drugs, polio virus crusade among other mundane issues”.
He continued: ”Nigeria is still a conservative society and the anti-gay law has united the ruling class and Nigerians outside government at this level of our national development. The US and its EU partners should be discussing serious issues; the leadership showed pro-activeness in trying to save the society from getting exposed to practices that are antithetical to our culture.
“We should be focussing on the items on the Bi-National Commission between both countries, but these threats show that we are nonentity in global arena. When the US is discussing with Iran on nuclear issues, they are threatening us on mundane issues”.
According to Soremekun, “we should be able to make the US and its EU allies realise that they cannot go to China to dictate their laws. China is still a communist country and they are falling over them selves to go to China and do business. We should make them realise what General Abacha did when he opened the door to China and Asian countries in the 1990s.”
Vanguard learnt that the US is committing “substantial” resources to fund the emergence of gay clubs and advocacy groups across Nigeria.
The Canadian Government had cancelled a planned state visit by President Jonathan which had been scheduled for next month. The Canadian government’s action which came within a week after the bill was signed into law is widely believed to be that country’s reaction to the President’s action of assenting to the bill which has so far enjoyed popular support in the country.
Homosexualism, lesbianism animalistic.
However, former Ambassador Suleiman, yesterday, described homosexuality and lesbianism as animalistic acts, degrading to humanity. Suleiman served as Nigerian envoy in several countries, including Pakistan, Brazil, Angola, United States of America, Ivory Coast, Poland, Australia and Sudan, among others.
Reacting to US threat of sanctions against Nigeria over the anti-gay law, Suleiman stressed the need for Nigerian leaders not to be dependent on foreign assistance for governance.
He said: “Homosexuality and lesbianism are offences against God; if any body wants to do it, he should do so secretly. It is not only animalistic but diminishes mankind.”
“If it is the money the US gives to us, let them keep the money. Nigeria is rich enough to take care of her people unlike other countries.”