Nigeria: ‘Preposterous’ rationale for 57 gay arrests

“Preposterous” is the response of a West African religious network to last weekend’s arrest of 57 people on homosexuality charges at a Lagos area hotel.

State police Commissioner Imohimi Edgal (left); arrested suspects (right) (Photo courtesy of Akahi News)
State police Commissioner Imohimi Edgal (left); dozens of arrested suspects (right) (Photo courtesy of Akahi News)

Witnesses and party-goers said they came to the hotel to attend a wedding and a birthday party. But police raided the hotel, arrested men, spared women and declared that the men were homosexuals who had gathered for a gay initiation ceremony.

The Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa stated:

This was a birthday party that had both males and females in attendance. The police barged into the party and arrested the males, including taxi drivers and food vendors outside the venue, and trumped up vague charges of a cult initiation into homosexuality. A charge that is preposterous and lacks evidence.

One unflinching question that should create doubts in our mind is why were the females in attendance not also arrested? This further proves the arrested persons are just victim of circumstances.

Many denials

Local media quoted many of the suspects denying the police allegations that the gathering was anything other than a normal party attended by both men and women. They particularly denied that it was a homosexual initiation (whatever that would be — apparently a weird homophobic fantasy about homosexuality as a cult).

This is the Premium Times report, which includes some of the police allegations and many suspects’ denials:

Nigeria Police storm hotel, arrest 57, accuse them of homosexuality

The police in Lagos said they arrested 57 men for alleged homosexual activity at Kelly Ann Hotel/ Event Centre in Egbeda, Lagos, on Sunday morning.

State police Commissioner Imohimi Edgal: The raid was based on information from a "reliable source." (Photo courtesy of Vanguard News)
State police Commissioner Imohimi Edgal: The “gay arrests” in the raid were based on information from a “reliable source.” (Photo courtesy of Vanguard News)

Imohimi Edgal, the state police commissioner, told journalists during a press conference Monday that police, led by the divisional police officers of Shasha and Idimu, acting upon an information provided by a reliable source stormed the hotal at 2 am.

“On arrival, young men numbering about 80 were met in a hall taking different types of drinks including banned substance like Tramadol, Shisha laced with substances suspected to be Marijuana,” Mr Edgal added.

“When the men sighted the police, they took to their heels but the police arrested 57 of them.”

One of the arrested suspects, Wealth Olasunkanmi, a 25-year-old graduate of Mass Communication from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, told journalists they were attending a birthday party.

“It was a birthday party and majority of us don’t know one another. I was invited by my friend Muyiwa for the party, and we were not only guys in the party, few ladies were with us and other ladies were in the hotel rooms getting dressed for the party. Since it was a party, a social gathering, there were lots of males than females.

‘Police just barged in’

“The police just barged in and arrested people, I was outside the hall buying a drink when I was arrested. They also arrested few ladies but they let go of the ladies. The police didn’t allow us know our offence until we reached the police station yesterday. At first, the police told us that they found some illegal drugs with us such as shisha, tramadol and others but those that owned this came out and claimed possession of it, it is not a general thing.

“They also accused us of being homosexuals, I am not one, I went there to party. They also accused us of being initiated but no initiation material was founded with us or at the venue.”

Another suspect, Samuel Rotimi, 22, said, “We were contributing gate pass for the party when the policemen emerged. It was a birthday party and there were ladies there too, we are not gays.”

James Brown, 20, said he went to perform at the party when he was arrested.

“I went there to work and get paid. The party was on Saturday and it is (was) meant to be overnight. I was arrested and have been denied to even take my drugs which is for medical reasons.”

Smart Jones, another suspect, said he had gone to have fun on Saturday night and on seeing the activities in the hotel, decided to go in.

“I am not gay and I don’t know any of them, it was even when we got to the police station that I got to know that it was a birthday party.”

Daniel Sokari, 23, said he had come to the hotel to lodge on his way back from a pageant, ‘Mr Tourism Nigeria’, which was held in Lekki.

“I left there (Lekki) at 6 pm, there was traffic due to the Third Mainland Bridge closure, we took alternative route which was a long tour that was why I got to the hotel late to lodge.

“I live in Rivers State and only came for the pageantry. I was at the reception when the police came and they told me to lie down which I gladly did since I knew I had not committed any crime. But I was accused of being a gay.

“All efforts to explain to the police and show them the evidence of my invitation to the pageantry and pictures proved abortive,” he added.

This is the full statement from the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA):

Statement from IDNOWA

Logo of the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa
Logo of the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa

Aug. 28, 2018 — Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA) is a religious-based network that is inclusive of all individuals irrespective of their ethnicity,race,sexuality or gender identity. We stand for the protection of fundamental freedom of every individual irrespective of their sexual orientation and identity.

Our organisation was founded on the bed rock principle that God is love and God loves every human being; every human being is created equally and in the image and likeness of God.

Recently, there have been various reports from different parts of Nigeria where government officials and state actors abuse innocent citizens of Nigeria because of their perceived sexual orientation.  Most of these arrests are unlawful as the due process of the law wasn’t followed and there is no substantive evidence for prosecuting the victims other than fabricated theories and hearsay stories. Fear and bigotry are enshrined in laws that infringes on the rights of human beings as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which most countries have adopted and domesticated.

On the 26th of August 2018, 58 young men were arrested in a party at Kelly Ann Hotels in Egbeda, Lagos. This was a birthday party that had both males and females in attendance. The police barged into the party and arrested the males including taxi drivers and food vendors outside the venue and trumped up vague charges of a cult initiation into homosexuality. A charge that is preposterous and lacks evidence. One unflinching question that should create doubts in our mind is why were the females in attendance not also arrested? This further proves the arrested persons are just victim of circumstances.

Rights have been violated

The rights of these individuals have been violated as they are being tortured and paraded as criminals on national and local television and other news outlets.

IDNOWA firmly opposes the criminalisation and acts of violence on citizens based on their perceived sexual orientation. We stand in solidarity with every person irrespective of how they choose to identify in affirming the dignity and equality of all persons. We are calling out to all civil societies, human rights defenders and every individual who has the capacity to join us and speak against this menace and oppression against citizens of Nigeria.

Human Rights are universal and everyone is entitled to enjoy this right.

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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 [email protected]

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