Twenty-one young Nigerian men are trying to put their lives back on course after they were arrested by police who allegedly mistook an all-male birthday party for an initiation ceremony for “a secret gay cult.”
In a raid, police in the southwestern Nigerian city of Ibadan arrested the 21 men after finding many condoms in their possession.
The arrests were widely reported in Nigerian media, with several publications accepting the police version of the incident — that police had broken up an initiation ceremony of a “gay cult.”
Activists said the men’s rights were violated by their being:
- Physically assaulted.
- Targeted with derogatory words, and
- Treated without respect for their dignity while in detention. They were photographed in their underwear, made to write statements under duress and locked up in an overcrowded cell.
In addition, Nigerian LGBTI-rights/anti-Aids organization TIERs (The Initiative for Equal Rights) said:
“Police did not follow due process in the arrest of the twenty-one young men: they had no formal charge against them, but relied on the presence of about 118 condoms found in the room with no female present and the tip that the occupants of the room were gay.”
The men were released after complying with a demand for bail payments, which the police required even though no charges had been filed against the men. “That is corruption,” said Michael Akanji, director of programs at TIERs.
TIERS hoped the incident could prove to be an opportunity for challenging police violations of the human rights of LGBTI people, but Nigerian society is so homophobic that the young men said they wanted to “move on with their lives” and put the incident behind them as soon as possible.
The arrests are just the latest example of police harassment of apparently LGBTI Nigerians since the enactment of Nigeria’s anti-gay Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) in early 2014.
That law calls for prison sentences of up to 14 years for being part of a same-sex marriage, up to 10 years for engaging in a “public show of same-sex amorous relationship,” and up to 10 years for organizing or taking part in a meeting of gay men or a “gay organization.”
TIERs said that, since the law took effect, “TIERs and other human rights and sexual health organizations working on LGBTI issues have recorded over 105 human rights violation cases involving at least seven persons in each of the cases documented. Based on records, 90% of cases documented were reported by LGBTI youth.”
With permission from TIERs, an edited version of the TIERs report on the arrests is reprinted below. Other organizations’ names and other sensitive information have been removed:
Twenty-one young men arrested in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
A Case Report prepared by The Initiative for Equal Rights
On Sunday the 10th of May 2015, at about 8:16 pm a call came to TIERs office from Ibadan reporting an incidence of arrest of twenty-one young men between 20 – 25 years old attending a party somewhere around Apete/Jeje area, Ibadan, Oyo State. We immediately referred the case to [an organization] in Ibadan for confirmation of the boys’ arrest. Monday morning, 11th of May 2015 the [organization’s] staff visited the police station and confirmed that the boys were indeed arrested and also confirmed the number of boys arrested by the police.
After this feedback, on the morning of 12th of May 2015, TIERs Human rights and Legal Officer was sent to Ibadan to [help] provide legal aid and alternative dispute resolution where possible.
The allegations against the twenty-one young men were the congregation of homosexuals and initiation of new members into a secret gay cult. The report went on to say that the arrest was made during their initiation party, which in fact happened to be a birthday party. At the point of arrest, the young men were physically assaulted and treated in a manner unbecoming of any legal process: they were photographed in their underwear, made to write
statements under duress and locked up in an overcrowded cell.
A lawyer [sought] peaceful resolution of the case. However, some of the parents protested against the involvement of the lawyer as they felt his presence further complicated the matter. This is because the Duty Police Officer (DPO) refused bail and insisted on transferring the case to the State CID [Criminal Investigation Department]. At intervals, some parents who were opportuned to be contacted by the birthday celebrant came to the aid of their children and for every person released, there were different bail prices which varied from NGN5,000, to NGN10, 000 (US $25 to $50) while the celebrant paid NGN21,000 (US $105) as bail amount since he was considered the organizer of the party.
Subsequently, a negotiation was made through the Investigating Police
Officer (IPO) to bail the remaining the ten young men left in detention as no family member had to come to their aid; unlike the other eleven men who had different people (family and non-family members) to bail them out. When consent was given to post the bail for the remaining ten young men, [two organizations worked together to arrange for] the payment, while TIERs took the responsibility of providing funds for the logistics to cater for the boys till they reported back to the station the following day.
[The young men] had to report back to the station by 10am. Upon arrival, the police further extorted NGN500 (US $2.50) each from them before they were asked to sign and leave.
During consultation with the young men about the way forward, they were adamant that they did not want the case charged to court as they preferred the case closed so that they can move on with their lives. …
Analysis of the Case
The Police did not follow due process in the arrest of the twenty-one young men: they had no formal charge against them, but relied on the presence of about 118 condoms found in the room with no female present and the tip that the occupants of the room were gay. [TIERs noted that many of the condoms belonged to health workers at the party. Distribution of condoms by health workers is a routine prevention measure in the battle against sexually transmitted diseases.] …
The victims’ rights were violated as they were physically assaulted and derogatory words were used on them. They were not treated with dignity while in detention. Despite these facts related by the young men, they still insisted on no legal action against the police as they didn’t want further trauma. …
That all the twenty-one young men were freed is the result of collaborative work and co-ordination of [TIERs and two other] organizations here in Nigeria. …
With this recent occurrence, it is obvious that there is a need to create more public awareness and the need for victims to take up cases with solid support of the movement. Without this, cases like this will continue to occur with limited or no option for proper adjudication for justice. Also, were in the future we are opportuned to file a suit against similar case, this would further help the movement test the justice system on such cases in preparation for proper litigation strategies on instance of challenging the SSMPA [Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act].
Already, organizations across Nigeria are doing a lot to educate the community but if occurrence continues, it means that we need to also focus on encouraging the victim to challenge and demand enforceability of their rights through proper legal action. This must be integrated into our continuous engagement with the community.
- Nigeria: 12 arrests at party; police call it ‘gay wedding’ (January 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Puny response to 68 arrests in Nigeria’s anti-gay war (January 2014, 76crimes.com)
- Nigerian church welcomes, supports LGBTI people (December 2012, 76crimes.com)