Nigerian police extort money from LGBTs after anti-gay bill

Nigeria map shows coastal locations of Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Nigeria map shows coastal locations of Lagos and Port Harcourt.

Passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill by Nigeria’s federal legislature has led to increased harassment, blackmail and extortion of the LGBTI community, sometimes by police, even though the bill has not been signed into law.

For example, Mayowa K., a gay man, reported that he was stopped in the Ojudu-Berger area of Lagos, on June 24 on his way to work by police who at first thought he was a “yahoo-yahoo” (local slang for an Internet fraudster).

After he denied the accusation and showed his identification, the police insisted on confirming that he was not a fraudster by searching his phone and laptop, even though Nigerian law guarantees the right to privacy, including computers and phones.

On the computer, they found gay pornographic films. The police also extracted his parents’ telephone numbers from his contact lists and threatened to call them and tell them he is gay unless he paid a bribe. He paid the police about 20,000 naira (about US$124 or 96 euros) as a bribe to keep quiet and let him go.

In an incident in the Ajao estate area of Lagos state on June 29, plainclothes police accosted another gay man, handcuffed him, and took his phone. They checked his chat messages and initiated a chat with his partner, whom they tricked into going to a rendezvous. When the partner showed up and found out that he had been conned, police arrested him and threatened that he would be shot if he dared to make a move.

Both men were charged with violating the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill, even though it is not a law. They were detained for two days, then released after they paid about 50,000 naira (US$309 or 40 euros).

A further consequence of passage of the bill is an increase in anti-gay slurs. For example, M. Davis of Port Harcourt in Rivers State, a lawyer who is willing to represent members of the LGBTI community, is now labeled a “homo lawyer.”

The bill, which would basically legalize discrimination based on sexual orientation, has already harmed members of the LGBTI community and their supporters, although it hasn’t even been enacted.

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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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