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Bobrisky’s ordeal: Crossdressing or mutilation of naira?

By Babatunde Ayedoju


If  there are names that an ardent follower of the Nigerian media space (both mainstream media and social media) will be conversant with in this period, one of them is bobrisky, just as the term crossdressing has been on the lips of Nigerians lately.

Bobrisky, whose real name is Idris Olanrewaju Okuneye, gained media attention for allegedly switching his gender from male to female and dressing like a woman, especially in public. It must be noted that crossdressing is not a recent pcross-dressingNigeria. History has it that Uzoma Odimara, a musician and comedian who was also known as Area Scatter, pioneered it in the 1970s.

Over time, it has become a somewhat common practice popularised in Nigeria by people such as Denrele Edun, James Brown, Jay Boogie and Bobrisky.

Bobrisky who claimed that he had undergone surgery to change his gender from male to female, no doubt, commanded so much media attention and was known to display his wealth in public. He also won an award as Best Dressed Female at the premiere of a Yoruba movie, Ajakaju, about a month ago, an incident that sparked outrage from many Nigerians.

At a point, a social media personality, VeryDarkMan, called for Bobrisky’s arrest for cross-dressing, claiming that the self acclaimed ‘Mummy of Lagos is being protected by some powerful politicians who are his gay partners. He also threatened to become a crossdresser and use ladies’ restroom if Bobrisky was not arrested.

Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, in a television interview, stated that the police would not be able to arrest crossdressers since cross-dressing itself is not deemed illegal in Nigeria. He explained that the police cannot act on accusations of some crossdressers being homosexual, which is a criminal offence, as there is insufficiently law to prosecute them.

He said, “There are some cases that are always very difficult to prove. I’m not ruling out that we have many of them, but if, for instance, you want to prove the case of rape, it has points to prove, and if any of these points are missing, you may lose your case in court.

“Let us be reasonable; you can’t prosecute someone without credible evidence against them. I don’t think crossdressing is a crime in Nigeria because I have not read anywhere where cross-dressing is an offence in Nigeria.”

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Mr Adejobi said that there were allegations against certain crossdressers regarding their involvement in punishable offences adding that individuals who engaged in criminal activities in the name of crossdressing would be prosecuted  where the problem lies, and we need evidence that they’re actually into all those offences, which are ‘unnatural’ offenses and are punishable under the law,” he said.

It would be recalled that in April 2022, the House of Representatives introduced a bill prohibiting crossdressing, with an amendment to the Same-Sex (Prohibition) Act. The amendment, sponsored by Muda Umar (APC, Bauchi), sought to amend sections 4 and 5 of the principal act. This proposed bill, if passed into law, could affect popular crossdressers like Bobrisky and others.

On April 3, Bobrisky was reportedly arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and subsequently charged to court for naira abuse. After he had pleaded guilty, the court sentenced Bobrisky who identified his gender as male to six months imprisonment without an option of fine.

Following Bobrisky’s imprisonment, a prison official whose name was not disclosed revealed that after a careful examination in the prison, Bobrisky’s male organs were found intact, making him to be kept with other male inmates.

The source said “Bobrisky made a public declaration that he was a male and court proceedings are public records. Every inmate brought into a facility during admission is examined.  He was equally examined and no realignment of gender or genital organ was discovered. The male biological features were the same.

“After that, a cell was allocated to him, and he had a certain number of inmates with him. A bed space was also allotted to him. It is just like a boarding house where your housemaster will issue you your personal belongings.”

From the information made available by the Police’s Public Relations Officer, crossdressing is not a crime in Nigeria, as we do not yet have a law against it. That means, no matter the reservation Nigerians may have towards the practice, a legal action cannot be instituted against anyone because of that.

However, there is another issue under consideration here, which is naira abuse, an offence is contrary to and punishable uthat nder Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act 2007. The CBN defines each of the following actions as an abuse of the naira: spraying; writing; stapling; tearing; soiling; sale; mutilation (CBN Act Section 21); and rejection (Section 20 subsection 5).

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Just like crossdressing, the abuse of naira in various forms has been going on for long and some well-known Nigerians have been caught on various occasions being engaged in the act. In 2021, a video was posted on social media showing a federal lawmaker, Ibrahim Abuna, representing Mafa, Dikwa, and Konduga Federal Constituency,cy of Borno State in the House of Representatives as he tossed money from a balcony a people clamored to catch the airborne naira notes.

Last year, EFCC arraigned a musician, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, AKA Simi Gold, for spraying and stepping on naira notes at an event in Lagos. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment with an option of ₦300,000 fine.

Likewise, few days after the Bobrisky saga, popular socialite, Pascal Okechukwu, also known as Cubana Chief Priest, was arraigned before a Lagos State High Court by the EFCC for allegedly abusing the naira. The Cubana Chief Priest who pleaded not guilty was released on a N10 million bail.

Nevertheless, the EFCC stated that it would not be able to prosecute old cases of naira abuse because its Special Task Force against Naira Abuse and Dollarisation of the Economy began operation on February 7, 2024.

Speaking through its Head of Media and Publicity, Dele Oyewale, the EFCC said, “Increasingly, members of the public are drawing the attention of the Commission to video recordings of abuse of the Naira by Nigerians from all walks of life. These gestures amply demonstrate the rising consciousness of the public to the sanctity of our national currency and the need for collaborative engagement to sustain the tempo. The Commission will always investigate and prosecute anyone involved in the abuse of the Naira.”

While cautioning against circulating old videos of naira abuse and clarifying that the commission’s jurisdiction is limited to cases occurring after the establishment of its specialised task force, Oyewale said videos being exhumed and flying around for the attention of the Commission are noted as the Commission is sensitive to the fact that its Special Task Force against Naira Abuse and Dollarization of the Economy commenced operations on February 7, 2024. However, going forward, new videos of such infractions will be investigated and prosecuted.”

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According to Professor Adediran Ikuomola from the Department of Criminology and Security Studies, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, crossdressing is not a crime, from sociological and legal perspectives. While stating that where there is no law there is no sin, he added that from an African perspective, there is nothing like crossdressing, making it fall under the category of deviant behaviour.

Speaking on naira abuse, Professor Ikuomola blamed the persistent habit on lack of enforcement of existing laws that forbid it, adding that public officials, including those who should implement the laws, are also involved in the wrong practice.

In the words of Dr Mrs. Kemi Adebola, a sociologist from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), crossdressing is culturally not correct adding that  if there is no law against it yet,  one cannot be prosecuted for it. However, she said that people are voicing out against it because it is alien to our culture. She blamed the trend on identity crisis which stems from people dropping indigenous culture for Western way of life.

She said, “When something has been practised for a long time, you practiced to go beyond law-making like it’s being done law-making. People are now being careful with how they use the naira. The same thing goes for other criminal offences. When people commit offenses and nothing is done, the offense continues to thrive. But if the  law is enforced, people will begin to do the right thing.”

Dr Adebola said that most of the time, the problem is not the absence of laws against offenses but the lack of enforcement laws, adding that enforcement is what leads to obedience. She  suggested that in the case of spraying money at parties, both the doer and the receiver should be arrested.

Her words: “If I have a party, somebody wants to spray me money and I know that I will be arrested for that, I will stop the person. That will help us nip this problem in the bud .”

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