BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI & VICTORIA OJEME
ABUJA—The Federal Government, Thursday, told the United Nations that no amount of pressure would force it to reverse the law that criminalised same-sex marriage in Nigeria, insisting that such sexual orientation was “contrary to our cultural beliefs and will not be tolerated.”
Addressing a delegation of the UN, led by its High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Mohammed Adoke, SAN, maintained that if President Goodluck Jonathan had not okayed the anti-gay bill, Nigerians would have taken laws into their hands by lynching suspected homosexuals and lesbians in the country.
He said: “I wish to re-emphasise that our laws do not criminalise individual sexual orientation. The focus of the Act is, therefore, discouragement of same-sex marriage which is a reflection of the overwhelming beliefs and cultural values of the Nigerians people as demonstrated by a 2013 opinion poll which showed that 92 per cent of Nigerians reject same- sex marriage.
“It is a very thorny and sensitive issue and if we go back to history, we will find that 60 to 70 years ago, in several parts of the world, the issue of same sex marriage was very appalling and not acceptable.
“So, it takes time, it is not an issue that we can force on the people.
It is an issue that the majority of the people at the moment do think is contrary to our cultural beliefs and it will not be tolerated.
“And I can make bold to say that if the government had not taken the pragmatic step to put in place the punitive mechanism to this conduct, perhaps vast majority of the people would have taken laws into their hands and it will be more harmful for people with same sex sexual orientation.
“So it is a win-win situation at the moment because it is capable of bringing down any government should the government toy with opinion of the vast majority of the people.”
On security situation in the country, Adoke said: “To address the current security challenged in the country, government had set up many committees, the reports of which are being considered and implemented.
“The Federal Government has also adopted other constitutional measures which include the declaration of a state of emergency over Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. While the war on terror currently being waged by our security agencies is undoubtedly a difficult and challenging one in view of the guerrilla tactics adopted by the insurgents, our forces have been under strict instructions to ensure that the war is waged with due regard for the human rights of residents of the affected areas.
“As a government, we are however aware that despite our best efforts, there have been some allegations of excesses by some security operatives engaged in the operations.
“As earlier indicated, we shall continue to deal with all reported cases strictly in accordance with our laws and the commitment of the current administration to the rule of law,” the AGF stated.
Meantime, in her earlier remarks, leader of the delegation which visited the Federal Ministry of Justice, Pillay, while commending Nigeria for being on the forefront in the fight against human trafficking, urged the Federal Government to reverse the anti-gay law.
“I am concerned with the implication of the recently passed same-sex law.
It is a violation of the African Charter on Peoples Rights and even the Nigerian constitution”, Pillay said. saying the law was capable of stopping Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Trans-gender (LGBT) persons from accessing HIV treatment.
Besides, she asked the AGF to prepare and tender to the UN, an update on the prosecution of 500 persons that were arrested following allegation that they were members of the Boko Haram sect.
“It is the duty of the Ministry of Justice to ensure that they are given speedy and fair trial”, Pillay said.