The police commissioner and a traditional chief in Delta State are backing Nigerian human rights activists’ efforts to end a wave of blackmail and extortion of gay men and others.
The campaign was mounted this month by Levites Initiative for Freedom and Enlightenment (LIFFE), a grassroots human rights NGO in the Asaba area of Delta State.
On March 5, delegates from LIFFE visited the obi (traditional leader), Senator Nosike Ikpo of Ibusa town, and the Delta State commissioner of police, Muhammad Mustafa, to inform them of about a group of local criminals.
That gang repeatedly lured people, including gay men, to their hideouts in Ibusa town, where they would beat them, rob them, extort them of their valuables, and then leave them naked on the street. In many African counties, closeted gay men are frequent victims of such crimes, with blackmailers threatening to out them unless they turn over their valuables and drain their bank account.
In a recent incident, a young man [name withheld] was lured to a location where the criminals beat him, raped him, robbed him and withdrew money from his bank account by using his ATM debit cards. After the incident, he tested positive for HIV.
That incident, one among many, was reported to LIFFE, which advocates for human rights for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. The organization resolved to discuss the problem with local authorities in hopes of putting an end to the menace and bringing the perpetrators to book.
In response to the visits from LIFFE delegates, the commissioner of police and the obi of the town both pledged their support.
Some police staff members at the meeting and the chief at his palace acknowledged that they were already aware of the crimes.
The commissioner officially introduced the delegates to the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to lay the groundwork for a possible partnership. Those delegates included Uchenna Samuel, LIFFE’s executive director, and Mike Daemon, activist, journalist and publisher of the NoStringsNG advocacy website.
Uchenna emphasized the importance of ending the extortionists’ reign:
“It is very pertinent that people know that blackmail, extortion, and all related offenses are crimes — regardless of the victim’s sexuality. Perpetrators should be held responsible and brought to book by the appropriate authorities. It is based on this fact that my organization has taken steps to address this issue.”
Levites Initiative for Freedom & Enlightenment (LIFFE) partnered with Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa for the project and received financial support from International HIV/AIDS Alliance through its Rapid Response Fund made available by Elton John AIDS Foundation.
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