The Nigerian human rights group TIERS called today for an investigation into the reported murder of a man in Ondo State in coastal Nigeria, allegedly by a group of youths who were upset about his apparent sexual orientation.
Over the weekend — three and a half weeks after the alleged incident — social media networks were abuzz with reports of the Feb. 18 death of Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi. TIERS (The Initiative for Equal Rights) said the reported attack was motivated “by his perceived sexual orientation, particularly for his sexual liaison with a councilor in the Ondo West Local Government. There is a continuing threat to the life of the councilor as well as the families of the victims and their properties in Ondo West local Government, Ondo State.”
The facts of the case are unclear, a confusion that is not helped by the fact that many reports of the murder were accompanied by bogus photos, including a Facebook post titled “End of a gay!” that may have been the earliest account of the incident. That post, shown above, was illustrated by three photos — all of them copies of photos published one to four years earlier in unrelated contexts:
- A photo of a bleeding man, which had previously been published at least four times before in Nigeria — in a 2012 article about 10 deaths in Borno state; in a 2012 article about the shooting deaths of 19 people at a Bible study near Akene in Kogi state; in a 2013 article about sectarian violence in Plateau and Kaduna states; and in a 2013 article about sectarian violence in Taraba state.
- A photo of funeral-goers and a coffin, which previously appeared multiple times in 2015 to illustrate the funeral of a robbery victim in Nigeria.
- A photo of an attendant preparing a corpse for a Muslim burial, which previously appeared in 2013 in The Hindu of India and in 2014 on an anti-Islam website in the United States.
Previous uses of those photos are presented at right and below.
One of the early accounts of the incident, on Nairaland Forum on March 12, stated that “According to multiple mssages on his FB wall, Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi, was accused of being gay and was attacked on the 17th of February, 2016. He died the following day. Many people have taken to his Facebook wall to write some less-than-friendly things about him.” The accounts name Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi’s alleged sexual partner, say that he is “on the run,” and report that his family home has been burned down.
As its source, Nairaland Forum cited the Trezzy Blog, which reprinted an image of the “End of a gay!” update from Facebook.
Steve Aborisade, executive coordinator of the Nigerian human rights organization Projekthope, wrote an open letter to Olusegun Mimiko, governor of Ondo State, in which he stated about the incident that:
“[I]nformation is hazy with no definite corroboration. However, several individuals have ascribed to the plausibility of the narrative citing several eye witnesses. Earlier today, I was in touch with one of your senior aides who confirmed to me that your government is already investigating this incident.
I thank you sir, for this prompt response, as we await the outcome of your investigation.”
“Firstly sir, the manner of this young man’s death has sent shock waves across the world regarding the texture of our humanity, the value we attach to life, and the nature of our society and of ourselves as a people. Secondly sir, and quite importantly too is the reason, the justification given for lynching him to death. Nowhere did our laws prescribed death as penalty for our sexuality, and assuming it does, which it did not, there is nowhere that any Nigerian is permitted to die extra judicially. …
“Meanwhile, what must be done sir, and as a matter of urgency is to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to book, wherever they may have run to. I know this is not beyond you sir, and I trust this will be your immediate line of action.
“Your Excellency, the world looks up to you, Nigerians are looking up to you, the people of Ondo looks up to you. Please show the whole world that Nigerians are better than this, show the whole world that Ondo people are not what these criminals are projecting them to be.”
This is the TIERS press release:
TIERs call for investigation into Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi murder
The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) strongly condemns the murder of Mr. Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi. MrAkinnifesi was attacked by a group of youths in Ondo West Local Government, Ondo State and died on the 18th of February 2016 as a result of the injuries sustained. The attack was motivated by his perceived sexual orientation, and particularly for his sexual liaison with a councilor in the Ondo West Local Government. There is acontinuing threat to the life of the councilor as well as the families of the victims and their properties in Ondo West local Government, Ondo State.
We strongly condemn the invasion of privacy, violation of the rights to life, dignity, personal liberty, and fair hearing of the victims through this act of violence based on their real or perceived sexual orientation. The attack on Mr Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi is barbaric, inhuman and a gross denial of his rights under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As a Human Rights organization with specific focus on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-person rights, we are deeply concern about this violence meted against Mr Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi based on his real or perceived sexual orientation. The death of Mr Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi for his real or perceived sexual orientation further reinforces the level of injustice experienced by persons who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Trans-person in Nigeria.
We believe that such a barbaric act towards any citizen is unjustifiable, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We believe that the Federal, states and local governments have a high responsibility to protect the life of every citizen regardless of public opinion on the citizen’s sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We urge the Ondo State Government to speak out against this barbaric act of violence.
WE THEREFORE IMMEDIATELY REQUEST THE FOLLOWING FROM CONCERNED PARTIES.
ONDO STATE GOVERNMENT
We urgently call on the Ondo State Government and, in particular, the Governor, Mr Olusegun Mimikoto investigate the murder of Mr Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi and ensure that all those who committed this unjust act are made to face justice regardless of their position within the society.
NIGERIA POLICE FORCE
We call on the Nigerian Police authority, specifically the Commissioner for Police in Ondo State, to immediately launch an investigation into the killing of Mr Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi and ensure that those involved in the barbaric act are apprehended.
NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
We call on the National Human Rights Commission to act on its statutory mandate and launch an investigation into the incident, particularly, the ensuing mob violence and death of the victim.
Finally, we call on all law-abiding Nigerians to condemn and speak out against jungle justice and other inhuman acts of violence by demanding justice for the late Mr Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi. The right to life of every Nigerian is sacrosanct irrespective of their class, status, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
- Steve Aborisade: Open letter to Mimiko on the murder of Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi for being a homosexual (March 14, 2016, Freedom Online)
- 64% rise in reported Nigerian human rights violations (Jan. 5, 2016, 76crimes.com)
- To hell (and back!) with a gay Nigerian student (Jan. 3, 2016, 76crimes.com)
- That Piece About The TIERs Human Rights Day Event (Dec. 26, 2015, KitoDiaries.com)
- Nigerian activists protest harmful, flawed N.Y. Times coverage (Dec. 24, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Nigeria: No court challenge vs. alleged police misconduct (May 21, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Nigeria: 12 arrests at party; police call it ‘gay wedding’ (Jan. 27, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- 25 reported arrests in Nigeria (Nov. 7, 2014, 76crimes.com)
- 3 arrested, jailed in Nigeria (Feb. 19, 2014, 76crimes.com)
- Puny response to 68 arrests in Nigeria’s anti-gay war (Jan. 21, 2014, 76crimes.com)