3 months in Nigerian jail for mistaken gay sex, or rape?

Bestwood Chukwuemeka
Bestwood Chukwuemeka

Little-known Nigerian actor Bestwood Chukwuemeka was sentenced today to three months in prison for homosexual sex.

However, news coverage of his case by Premium Times, Igboist, Identity Kenya and others  contain apparent contradictions that remain unexplained.

When Chukwuemeka, 28, was arrested in August, 9jaLife and other online news outlets reported that he was accused rape.   But instead he was charged with violating Section 284 of the Penal Code for Northern Nigeria, which provides for up to 14 years in prison for homosexual activity.

Police said he had anal sexual intercourse with a man who was asleep in his bed.  In August, Chukwuemeka pleaded not guilty, saying he was drunk at the time and thought the man was his girlfriend.

Bestwood Chukwuemeka
Bestwood Chukwuemeka

“I came back drunk from the night club and thought I was sleeping on the same bed with my girlfriend and I started romancing her,” he said.

Yesterday in Karu Senior Magistrates’ Court in Abuja, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced for violating the law against same-sex intercourse.

Magistrate Nafisat Buba said alcohol is no excuse for criminal activity. There was no mention of the fact that the case previously was described as rape.

A second contradiction concerns the status of a bill against same-sex marriage that was approved late last year by the Nigerian senate.  That bill apparently has not been passed by the House of Representatives nor signed by the president, but news reports nevertheless describe it as a “law” that is in effect.

BBC reported about the bill in early December:

The Prohibition of Same-Sex Marriage Bill last week sailed unopposed through the Senate — the country’s highest chamber.

Under the new bill, same-sex couples entering into either marriage or cohabitation would face jail terms of up to 14 years.

Those “witnessing” or “abetting” such relationships would also face custodial sentences, and groups that advocate for gay and lesbian rights could also be penalised. …

Before it becomes law, the bill must be passed by the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, and then signed by the president.

That has not happened, unless it occurred without being reported publicly.

However, the House of Representatives previously approved similar legislation, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA, which reported:

Both in 2006 and 2009, a legislative proposal has been introduced to further criminalise homosexuality. The ‘Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill’ received approval in the House of Representatives of Nigeria in January 2009, and among other things would make it a crime for people of the same sex to live together. Apparently, that bill did not succeed in becoming law.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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