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Nigerian gays: swimming in shark infested sea

By DOTUN IBIWOYE

As the consistent slaps and punches on the face of the young man in his mid twenties by the mob gained momentum, the passersby stop to know the cause of the lynching,  on a sunny afternoon in July 2014 in Ajegunle, a surburb in Lagos.

What stuck most of the enquirers is the answers of the lynch-mob.

Animal! Animal! Animal! That’s all the answers the passersby got.

The bewildered enquirers had no choice than to immediately form their own ‘faction’ of rescuing the unfortunate victim for being lynched because some people perceive him as an animal.

Within three minutes after the calming of nerves by the two ‘factions’, several questions were raised and answers were given- the victim was a well known homosexual living within the vicinity.

This scenario might not create any sympathy for the victim in Nigeria where same-sex acts are punishable by up to 14 years in jail, while gay marriage and displays of same-sex affection are also banned.

28 adults being arraigned for engaging in homosexuality
before the Yaba Magistrate Court by Lagos State Government,
on Thursday, August 3, 2017.

A bill was signed into law on January 7th, 2014, to criminalise gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and even membership of a gay rights group with penalties of up to 14 years in prison.

Inasmuch as anti-gay sentiment and persecution of homosexuals is rife in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa, the aforementioned legislation became more popular and legitimate.

Under the former existing Nigerian federal law, sodomy is punishable by jail, but the present bill legislates for a much broader crackdown on homosexuals and lesbians, who already live a largely underground existence.

Whatever way the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community draw emotion and sympathy from Nigerian residents, the culture and tradition of the people will always place then in the status of a pariah in the society.

The separation of Nigerians and Africans in general, from their culture and tradition will be a herculean task for any ‘elements or variables’, including ‘civilization’.
When jungle justice and culture are on collision course it reduces man to what Thomas Hobbes describes as the natural state of mankind, which is ‘nasty, brutish, and short’.
On Saturday July 29, 2017, 42 men where arrested in hotel at Weigh Bridge in Owode Onirin area of Lagos by the police for unnatural sexual relations related offence.

The hotel, Vincent Hotel, where they were caught was allegedly sealed off then.

The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Olarinde Famous-Cole, confirmed the arrest
.
He stated that the suspects had been handed over to the state task force for prosecution.

According to Famous-Cole: “It is true. About 42 suspected homosexuals were arrested and the hotel has been condoned off while investigation continues. They are in custody of the Lagos State Task Force and will be charged to court soon.”

“Some of them were said to be known to the residents as homosexuals and they were taken into custody for further investigation,” Famous-Cole added.

According to Nigerian gay rights activist Bisi Alimi, who launched a petition on Twitter demanding their release, the men were detained at a gathering where counsellors were providing HIV screening tests.

“The party was held in the hall of the hotel where HIV testing and counselling was available,” Alimi said.

“It wasn’t an orgy in a hotel room like we’ve read (in the media),” he said, adding that “the men arrested never said they were gay.”
The men were in detention for five days. Forty of them were later arraigned on Thursday, 3rd of August, 2017- 28 adults and 12 minor at  Ebute Metta , Yaba Lagos and were granted bail on that day.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, same-sex relations are explicitly banned in 72 countries — although the number of nations that criminalize such relations has been decreasing each year.

The Saga continues….
The frightening information reaching the public was that all the 42 arrested men were HIV positive.

Apart from this scenario, there is also the possibility of false accusation and attacks as means of settling scores.

Sometimes in Nigerian, whenever a law is passed, it ends up adding to the list of some law enforcement agent’s mean of exploitation of the public and accused. This has lead to loss of trust in the institution vested with enforcement of laws. The resultant effects of which is the development and enforcement of what is called jungle justice on any suspect or accused? This is the situation the L.G.B.T community in Nigeria were forced to contend with since the passage of the law proscribing all acts and activities relating to unnatural sexual relationship in Nigeria.

A month after the release of the 42 men, United Nigeria Sovereign Conference and Alternative Movements (UNISOCAM), a Non Governmental Organization, wrote a petition letter to World Health Organization and the United Nations (UN) protesting the maltreatment of the men 42 men arrested in July.

According to UNISOCAM, the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference is to move Nigeria forward as well as advocate for adherence to the rule of laws as an Alternative to the conference as a way forward.

”In the last few years of existence of this group, we have made contributions to several national issues as well like need for local government reforms, youth restiveness and its effects on the body politics, strengthening of civil society groups for sustainable democracy and social justice for drivers in the informal sector to mention just few.” The letter dated 6th of September, 2017, stated.

”In continuation of these ideals, we deem it fit to draw the attention of the and World Health Organization with United Nations (UN) in general, Lagos State Aids Control Agency (LASACA) and National Aids Control Agency (NACA), to the recent arrest of 42 homosexuals in Lagos, the plight of LGBT community in Nigeria and the shoddy manners of managing the prosecution of the 42 suspects with possibility of HIV epidemic in Nigeria.” The petion added.

UNISOCAM affirmed that it is not in the position to refute or confirm the HIV infection of the men as claimed by the state institution, but there are several fundamental issues at stake concerning the law which declared all acts related to unnatural sexual relationship as illegal.

”Although this act has always been been in abhorence in the traditional African societies, It is a known fact that the acts of unnatural sexual relationship is not a new development, but was brought to public discourse with political undertone, when the L.G.B.T community in the western world tried to ensure its legalization in Nigeria.. A move which back-fired and resulted in the passage of the law that prohibits the said acts in our society”, UNISOCAM said.

Occurrences
According to Human Rights Watch, in February 2014, in Gishiri village, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, a group of approximately 50 people armed with machetes, clubs, whips, and metal wires dragged people from their homes and severely beat at least 14 men whom they suspected of being gay. Three victims told Human Rights Watch that their attackers chanted: “We are doing [President Goodluck] Jonathan’s work: cleansing the community of gays.” Another victim said that the attackers also shouted: “Jungle justice! No more gays!”


Sampson Ayorinde Adeboye.

Apart from that “Arbitrary arrest and extortion by law enforcement agents is commonplace under the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2013 (SSMPA).

Interviewees in Ibadan, South west Nigeria, and other places told Human Rights Watch that they had been detained by the police multiple times since the passage of the SSMPA. Human Rights Watch interviewed eight of the 21 young men who were arrested, but not charged, at a birthday party in Ibadan. They told Human Rights Watch that members of the public informed the police that gay men were gathered together and when police arrived and found a bag of condoms that belonged to an HIV peer educator, they were all arrested. They were held in police custody for four days, and released, without charge, after paying bribes ranging from 10,000-25,000 Naira (approximately US$32-64).”

Likewise, on the 14th of Febuary, 2017, Ekanem Francis Obong and Adeyinka Ebenezer Busola were nearly lynched on suspicion of been gay.
In the above instances, the men so accused were beaten on mere suspicion of being a gay.

The story was different for those who are known self confessed L.G.B.T members and Gay’s activist like Samson Ayorinde Adeboye who was a renown gay in Ijegun, Ikotun area of Lagos.

He was man-handled and tortured on several occasion by the street urchins, and the vigilantes on the order of the community leaders.
Initially, he was pointed out as an L.G.B.T activist for the police who arrested him severally times. The community leaders, probably not satisfied with this, arranged for the vigilante group to arrest him.

On each occasion, Adeboye was always made to pass through hell, according to Femi Simpson, the national leader of the Group, “Gay By Nature: Not By Choice”( GBNNBC).

Simpson said on 27th of April 2015, he, Adeboye and other friends, were attacked and beaten mercilessly in front of his house when youths went on rampage, beating those they suspected of being gay.

Later in the month of September 2015, Adeboye was attacked again on the prompting of the community leaders on allegations of being a negative influence on the youths.

Finally, he was warned to leave the community or have himself to blame.

On November 16, 2016, Adeboye was lured out by men who identified themselves as of security agents. Till date Adeboye has not returned.
All efforts made to trace him has yielded no fruitful result.

The above are few reported cases of attacks on suspected and known L.G.B.T members in Nigeria all of which can be called uncoordinated and informal.

Anomalous dimension ..
The arrest and arraignment of the 42 men suspected/accused in engaging in unnatural sexual relationships by the police has thrown up a new dimension into the whole episode.

Nigeria is a secular nation. As a multi religious nation, what an L.G.B.T community stand for is viewed as a taboo not only by the two major religion of Christianity and Islam, but by the traditional African religion.

This apart, the behavioral pattern of the L.G.B.T is viewed in the major religion and African traditional religion as a spiritual ailment rather than natural traits.

This was the reason why there was consensus in passing the law that prohibits the practices in Nigeria and the attempt to stamp out LGBT in Nigerian social circle.

UNISOCAM’s petition to the UN also argued that there is a general consensus among the government agencies to threat the set of people as outcasts in Nigeria, which was pointed out from the episode of the 42 men arrested at a hotel in Owode Onirin part of Lagos State in July 2017 and their subsequent arraignment and bail, all of which followed the legal course of justice, apart from the news coming out that all the 42 people arrested tested positive to the much dreaded HIV/AIDS virus.

The petition letter also noted that , it beats all imagination to hear that 42 out of arrested people tested positive to HIV, the possibilities to them and any rational thinking person will be far fetched and practically impossible.

To add a new dimension to the said story, all the 42 men were released into the society without any attempt being made to give them treatment or counseling and proper monitoring to prevent the spread of the dreaded virus.

In light of this, one can easily conclude that there is more that meets the eyes in the handling of the whole issue by the concerned government agencies, and it automatically raised some questions as it relates to the issue of L.G.B.T in the Nigerian society.

How can anyone know  if the people being attacked and maltreated are gay?
Considering the fact that the law put in place was meant to discourage the growth of gay community in Nigerian culture, what are the mechanism put in place to re-integrate the ‘repentant’ ones among them back into the society, if any so decide?

Since an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, what are the structures put in place to ensure their protection from jungle justice and prevent victimization of the innocent people in the society?

How can the government convince the populace that all the 42 people arrested, tested positive to HIV/AIDS virus?
Who are the people/organization that conducted the test and how credible is the test?

If in actual sense they are positive of the virus, when/how did they become positive?
To save the situation and avoid a repetition of the above or play out of assumptions. It is therefore necessary for the government to immediately set up a panel of inquiry to investigate whole episode.

Divergent views on the 42 men..
Access to Justice, Nigeria-focused human rights organization based in Lagos, was one of the winners of the 2009 MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions, in its perspective on the issues, noted that it’s a frivolous waste of time and resources.

According to its Executive Director, Joseph Otteh: ”If you remember that perpetrators of heinous criminal offences are walking free on our streets, that kidnappers are still terrorizing our cities, towns and communities and that ritualists are massacring whole families and harvesting their body parts while the police is looking on, unable to provide basic security for the people.

”It is certainly not clear why the Police or any law enforcement agency for that matter should be expending scarce institutional resources in pursuing after the legality of consensual sexual behaviour that has not done any violence to any other person or endangered our community. How do we, quite apart from the moral or constitutional questions these arrests raise, rationalize the actions of the police as a prudential application of institutional resources and manpower? I think there are more policing-related matters begging for attention.

”It’s not for me, a question of whether the police has gone too far or not gone far enough; it’s whether this should be a stamping ground for law enforcement given all the challenges law enforcement faces with providing just basic or minimum levels of safety and security for the people of this country.

”I believe that there are urgent national priorities that are entitled to precedence in terms of where we deploy our institutional assets. Yes, obviously, corruption is one of them. Even corruption within the law enforcement sector!
”I agree that certain laws often offer unsafeguarded opportunities for exploitation and I can readily see how the 2014 Act can fit this bill. However, we must observe, that, in the cases of the 28 persons arraigned before a Lagos Magistrate Court recently, the charges were brought under the Laws of Lagos State and not the 2014 legislation. But that point is not crucial now, and whether it’s the 2014 Act or the Laws of any State, its still the same dangers we see.

”Even if we leave aside the issues related to the constitutionality or legality of the contents of these same-sex or sodomy prohibition laws (given the various human rights obligations binding on Nigeria), the point will always be: how do you ensure that these laws are not used to blackmail, harass, intimidate and extort people? A business competitor can simply invite the police and say that a hotel is being used for “illegal” homosexual activities. And that’s it.

”The police simply moves in, make arrests of any persons found on the premises, accuses them of engaging in the prohibited activities and the business is forced to closed down. There are many red flags, many inherent dangers of enforcing laws like this and there are simply no safeguards to restrain abusive or arbitrary actions.”

For Like in all nations all over the world. Homosexuality was in the closet for centuries and it was a taboo even to talk about it. Homosexuality is as old as homo sapiens. We forget that we homo sapiens are animals and belongs to the animal kingdom. Wether directed by nature through evolutionary process or by the invincible hands of God, homosexuality have been with mankind for hundreds of thousand of years and will remain with us for ever because the homo sapiens which we are are not pure seen from an evolutionary perspective hence we die of sickness any day at any time. Medical technology tries to eradicate this impurity in us by fighting our natural diseases.

Dr Ihasee Monzee Ihasee, a Nigerian political scientist who migrated from Nigeria 40 years ago, working in Norway in the University of Oslo as an assistant lecturer in the 1980s, Oslo Municipal Government, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, local and state government institutions.
He said that like in all nations all over the world, homosexuality was in the closet for centuries and it was a taboo even to talk about it.

According to Ihasee: ”Homosexuality is as old as homo sapiens. We forget that we homo sapiens are animals and belongs to the animal kingdom. Wether directed by nature through evolutionary process or by the invincible hands of God, homosexuality have been with mankind for hundreds of thousand of years and will remain with us for ever because the homo sapiens which we are are not pure seen from an evolutionary perspective hence we die of sickness any day at any time.

”Medical technology tries to eradicate this impurity in us by fighting our natural diseases. In the advanced world, homosexuality is no longer in the closet and has been taken out from the closet into the public domain as the society is liberated from the predominance of religion and the state itself is liberated from religion.

”The fact that the state is no longer controlled by religion implies that religion is jettisoned from the state prerogative and put into the back seat in an individual domain.

In Nigeria the mass hysteria of religious zealousness and opiate 24/7 prayers, miracles and the prophesies of a hopeless thy kingdom come has subordinated the Nigerian sub conscience into the realm of religious dogma that permeates the society to the point of neglect of the mathematical sciences necessary to develop our nation.

”Our colonial masters that brought religion to make it easy to colonise us has embraced science to the detriment of religion while we have taken up religion to dominate our psychic wellbeing as a metaphor for a surrealistic unrealistic unrealisable utopia heavens on earth. Churches in the advanced world are now being turned into day nurseries for kids and conference centres to pay bills while mega churches are now being built all over Nigeria. Same applies to the mosques in the islamic north of Nigeria.

”The religious dogma in either islam or Christianity is a false pretence that there is no homosexuality in Nigeria. It is like the Ostrich that berries its head in the sand. The sharia and Christian persecution of homosexuals in Nigeria is a religious hypocrisy and double standard because homosexuality is randomly distributed in all communities and population globally. Nigeria cannot be ignorant of this biological facts inherent in the homo sapiens and other animals in nature.

”It is not he duty of the Nigerian state to persecute homo sexual because among state actors, judiciary and the legislative like the general public among the pastors and imams, there are homosexuals.

Due to the corruption industrial complex, any law generated by the state is an avenue for the corrupt Nigerian police force to extort primitive tax from suspects to enrich themselves hence the parade of the so called homosexuals publicly to show to the world that the state is fighting against homo sexual and lesbians.

”One or two will be prosecuted to show examples and the vast majority will be released by the police after money has been collected in form of graft, prebends, perquisites and the whole usury of corrupt practices that those manning Nigerian institutions use to enrich themselves on behalf of the Nigerian nation. This is a part of the continuos corruption industrial complex.

”This backlash and persecution within the state institutions, the arbitrary arrests, persecutions, discrimination, mass phobia against homosexuals, brutality, metal and physical torture and sexual violence now being perpetrated through the legitimate use of state force can only happen in a primitive backward and underdeveloped societies that is still living in primordial and primeval and prime evil societies of a thousand years back in history.
”It is sad that tis is happening at a time our nation is failing in its responsive duties to disseminate social and economic services in redistribution policies. This is happening all over Africa because African states are essentially failing and failed states. There are homo sexual in Rome and in Mecca and in very town and villages all over the world including Nigeria.

CLEEN Foundation, a non governmental organization in Nigeria, promoting public safety, security and accessible justice through the strategies of empirical research, was the winner of Best NGO in ICT Deployment 2016 (NITDA-Nihilent e-Governance Award), also with grants from Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Institute, Department for International Development (DFID), British Council etc.
CLEEN Foundation affirms that by publicizing the faces of the individuals and labeling them as gay men in the media already labels them as been guilty in the eyes of the public.
According to CLEEN’s Program Manager, Blessing Abiri: ”The Nigerian government has enacted the same-sex marriage prohibition law, forbidding marriage, same-sex cohabitation and any “public show of same-sex amorous relationship. While the sexual preference of individuals should be considered personal, the danger in the application of the above law lies in its interpretation which can be stretched and subject to abuse.
”The law provides that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law which in this case has not happened. So both the police and media have not done well in this regard. ‘Considering that minors were amongst those accused, consideration should have been for alternatives such as counselling and rehabilitation.

”The focus here should be that due process of law should guide the actions of law enforcement agencies and this includes protecting the fundamental rights of every citizen irrespective of their personal sexual preference.

”Given that the law has been in force for 3 years, there is the need to revisit the law to review/amend provisions that can be subjected to abuse based in interpretation”
Dr. Eugene N. Nwosu, a Nigerian based in Dublin, Rep.of Ireland, is an author, entreprenuer, International Coaching & Mentoring veteran and an accountant.
In his view: ”Adult sexual preferences, orientations, and mutual/consensual interactions is human right issue. People should be allowed to chose what kind of mutual and consensual (adult) interaction, relationship, and intercourse that makes them happy. It’s about adult freedom, and happiness”.


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