Setback in court challenge to Nigerian anti-gay law

BuzzFeed reports:

“A judge with Nigeria’s Federal High Court threw out a challenge to a sweeping anti-LGBT law enacted in January on Wednesday, ruling that the person bringing the case did not have standing to challenge the law.

“The case was brought by Teriah Joseph Ebah, a 42-year-old Nigerian who has lived in the United Kingdom for the past 14 years. Ebah, who is married to a woman and has children, told BuzzFeed News by phone that he decided to sue even though he is not LGBT because, ‘I decided I wasn’t going to accept a Nigeria that was discriminatory.’ His lawyer, Mike Enahoro Ebah, said the judge had tossed out the case because he could not prove he had been directly harmed by the law.”

That confirmed an earlier report from the O-blog-dee blog:

Preliminary reports, yet to be verified by the Court, indicate that the Nigerian Abuja High Court has delivered a ruling dismissing the case where the Court was asked to nullify the new “Jail the Gays” Act, signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan in January of this year.

Nigeria Justice Abdul Kafarati (Photo courtesy of
Nigeria Justice Abdul Kafarati (Photo courtesy of

An update on the LGBT Christians in Exile page on Facebook stated that the court made no ruling on the substance of the lawsuit.

The O-blog-dee blog added, “We are informed that Attorneys will appeal the ruling.”

BuzzFeed quoted London-based Nigerian LGBTI activist Bisi Alimi as saying that the ruling opened the way for other challenges to the law.

In his suit, Ebah alleged that the “Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act” violates Nigerians’ human rights as protected by the country’s constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In the court filing, Ebah stated that:

“Nigerians, particularly those whose sex is Gay, Lesbian, bisexual or transgender are, by natural design, biologically and physiologically, without any fault of theirs, share unique sexual orientation. …

“I know as a fact that there is a constitutional provision in Nigeria which forbids discrimination against any Nigerian on the basis of their sex, community and/or circumstances of their birth.

“That I know as a fact that the recently assented Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013, by the President Jonathan violates the Nigerian Constitution which forbids discrimination against any Nigerian by virtue of their sex, community and/or circumstances of their birth. …

“That I know as a fact that Individuals do not choose their sexual orientation, be you straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual. It is not a matter of choice. You are who you are. By circumstance of our Birth, we are born straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

“That I know as a fact that the sexual orientation of a citizen of Nigeria does not impair upon his or her ability to participate fully in all economic and social activities and/or institutions in Nigeria or elsewhere in the world. …

“That I am aware that since the inception of Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013, an estimated number of about Thirty Eight (38) Nigerians have been arrested in about four (4) states of the federation on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“That I am aware that in Bauchi alone, an estimated number of about 12 Nigerians were arrested and subjected to prosecution on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“That I verily believe that this arrest, persecution and prosecution of these Nigerians is an attempt at genetic genocide meant to exterminate these Nigerians. …

The law calls for prison sentences of up to 14 years for any Nigerian who enters into a same-sex marriage and up to 10 years to anyone who attends or assists in a same-sex wedding in Nigeria.

The new law expands on a harsh existing Nigerian law that already provides for a 14-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. The old law apparently applied to same-sex intercourse; the new law also prohibits a “public show of same-sex amorous relationship” and would impose a 10-year prison sentence for those convicted.

It also threatens 10-year prison terms for anyone who organizes or takes part in a meeting of gay men in order to inform them about how to avoid HIV infection, as well as anyone who belongs to any organization that could be classified as a “gay organization,” whether it is seeking recognition of human rights for LGBT people, meeting the spiritual needs of LGBT people, or providing health care for LGBT people.

More information about the case will be reported here as it becomes available.

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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