Fifty-seven people suspected to be involved in homosexual activities in Nigeria were on Monday paraded by the police in Lagos after being picked up at an alleged gay initiation ceremony for newly recruited members.
The Lagos Commissioner of Police, CP Edgal Imohimi, who confirmed the arrest at a news conference said the suspects were nabbed on Sunday at around 2 am while the said initiation ceremony was ongoing at a hotel in Egbeda, Lagos.
“Intelligence gathered revealed that some youths will be initiated into a Gay/Homosexual Club between 1 a.m and 2 a.m. at Kelly Ann Hotel/Events Centre, located at No. 3-7, Adenrele St., Egbeda, an action contrary to Section 1 (1) of Same-Sex Marriage, Act 2014.
“Consequent upon this, some operatives from the Shasha and Idimu police stations stormed the venue and met no less than 80 young men.
“They were taking different types of drinks, including banned substances such as Tramadol, and Shisha laced with substances suspected to be marijuana.
“As soon as they sighted the Police, they ran into different directions, but the team arrested 57 of them,” he was quoted by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
The Police Commissioner, as at the time of filing this story, had launched investigations into the case and was preparing to arraign the suspects before a court.
Meanwhile, some of the suspects have denied the allegations, saying that they were only at the said hotel to attend birthday parties and other ceremonies.
“I’m not gay, I’m a dancer and I was there to perform before I was arrested. I’m a responsible citizen and I work at the Alimosho General Hospital as a counsellor for those living with HIV,” one of the suspects, James Obialu told the NAN.
The police, however, paraded the suspects who have since been accused of violating the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2014, a law that does not only ban marriages between persons of the same sex but also criminalises any same-sex relationships and displays of public affection.
According to the law, the formation of or taking part in gay clubs, societies and organisations are also illegal and anyone caught will face penalties ranging from 10 to 14 years in prison.
There is a widespread belief in Nigeria that homosexuality is a kind of deviant sexual cult into which people can be initiated, according to media reports, adding that this adds to the abuse and discrimination faced by LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) people.
An LGBTQ website NoStringsNG has since condemned the arrests, saying: “Clearly, the rights of the young men have been violated, as according to chapter IV of the Nigerian constitution, every individual has the right to freely express themselves and associate. This is guaranteed under the ‘Rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association’.”
In June this year, around a 100 party-goers were also arrested and beaten at a hotel in Asaba, Nigeria after being accused of being homosexuals.
Below is a video of the parade after Monday’s arrest: