‘Homosexuality festering despite societal disapproval’

By Sunmola Olowookere

The testimony of a witness, Ajulo Adewale Rasheed, who testified as a witness in an armed robbery case in 2018, laid him open to assault and rape by a homosexual racket at the Olokuta Prison, Akure, Ondo state.

After his noble deed in court, the witness, Ajulo, was said to have been raided by the police, along with some hoodlums during an uprising that occurred as a result of an obaship tussle at his home town, Irun Akoko,

Ajulo had subsequently dragged the Nigerian Correctional Center to court over his misfortune accusing the officers of negligence.

Giving his testimony before Justice Olutoyin Akeredolu, now retired, Ajulo Rasheed said that when they were brought to Olokuta Prison, following their arrest because the police cells were full,  he had seen Femi Aseye, the man he testified against in the armed robbery case, and fearing that there would be reprisals, he informed the warders of his predicament and asked that a different cell be allocated to him.

He said that they failed to listen to his complaints and locked him in the same cell with the accused person. Ajulo further testified that Femi Aseye had searched his pocket and taken from him N500.

He said that he also directed one other inmate called I.G to lock him inside the dirty toilet, where he was made to stay for two days, while he was sexually assaulted by homosexual inmates and tortured, in a bid to make him change his testimony in the armed robbery case.

He told the court how he shouted for help but none of the warders came to rescue him. He testified further that he sustained several injuries and had to take several stitches in his anus.

Gay arrest in Akure

Recently also, the Ondo State Security Network, Amotekun Corps, arrested two men caught having sex.

The duo, Seyi Balogun aka Amunidara, 42, and Tosin Arifalo,18, were arrested at Kajola in Ijoka area of Akure.

Meanwhile, the gay partners accused others of luring them into having sex. Speaking to newsmen, Balogun, a native of Isua Akoko, claimed that it was Tosin who lured him into the act.

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”Since then, we have been having sex together. What I can say is that the devil caused it, and I have warned him not to come to my house again,” he said.

However, Tosin said he was lured by Balogun into having sex with him three times in his house at Kajola in Ijoka. He said that Balogun also introduced him to one of his friends, Olojijo, who had sex with him many times.

Both men were later handed over to the Ondo Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for investigation and prosecution.

Nigeria’s stand on homosexuality

Despite strident criticisms from the nations that had accepted homosexuality, Nigeria still expresses stiff disapproval of the act and made imprisonment as punishment

In addition to criminalizing homosexuality, Nigeria enacted a legislation that would make it illegal for heterosexual family members, allies and friends of LGBT people to be supportive. According to Nigerian law, a heterosexual ally “who administers, witnesses, abets or aids” any form of gender non-conforming and homosexual activity could receive a 10-year jail sentence.

Homosexuality illegal, female uncertain

Homosexuality is punishable by 14 years imprisonment under the Nigerian Penal Code. The Law is, however unclear about female homosexuality in the Nigerian Penal code, in which the southern part of Nigeria rules. However in Northern Nigeria, where things are ruled by Sharia Law, the punishment are different. In some states in Northern Nigeria, consenting and adult gays and lesbians could be punished with death penalty.

In September, more than 60 people were arrested in connection with an alleged gay wedding, which is illegal in the country, and were thereafter remanded in prison.

The court granted a remand request from the police following a hearing in Warri, Delta State, where the suspects were arrested following a tip off.

In Nigeria, like in most parts of Africa, homosexuality is generally viewed as unacceptable, and a 2014 anti-gay law took effect, despite international condemnation.

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The defence counsel, Ochuko Ohimor, representing the 60 suspects, put the total number of those remanded at 69, adding they were facing charges connected to allegations that they were celebrating a gay wedding.

The anti-gay law in Africa’s most populous nation includes a prison term of up to 14 years for those convicted, and bans gay marriage, same-sex relationships, and membership of gay rights groups.

Former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan had signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act in 2014 and the western world felt that he unleashed the largest restriction of basic human rights in the country since the end of the military dictatorship in 1999.

As soon as the law was passed, scores of people suspected of engaging in same-sex relationships were rounded up  by the Nigerian Police and the Hisbah (Sharia police) on the streets and in their homes  then taken into custody.

The new law prohibits any form of relationship including “domestic partnerships,” “caring partnerships,” or “adult independent relationships” between two individuals of the same sex. It also punishes any public show of affection, even a kiss, between two people of the same sex, with 10 years in prison.

Anyone who speaks out in support of, meets with, or participates in a group advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people also risks 10 years in prison.

Doris Dokua Sasu, a public analyst, maintained that acceptance of homosexuality in Nigeria is very low. In 2019, only seven percent of respondents in the country declared that homosexuality should be accepted by the society. Nevertheless, this was an increase by six percentage points, compared to 2013.

Western countries’ criticisize Nigeria for its regulations on LGTBs

According to a report published by Micheal O. Nkonu in 2004, gay rights activist, Bisi Alimi, became the first Nigerian to declare his homosexuality while playing guest on the Nigerian Television Authority’s (NTA) Funmi Iyanda show—New Dawn.

His words “the reaction of the NTA was swift and reflective of the role of mainstream media in silencing the minority opinion. The show’s live format was canceled. Subsequent shows were prerecorded and screened by the NTA hierarchy to avoid a reoccurrence.” In effect, the NTA reasserted a climate of opinion rejecting homosexuality in Nigeria.

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He argued that when compared with social media, the NTA experience presents a stark contrast to the freedom of expression associated with online platforms.

“Increasingly, online platforms, the mainstream media, and some developed countries governments are leveraging their influential status to promote trends and propaganda for and against homosexuality,  ” he wrote.

Studies report that social media and cyber activists, bolstered by the relatively high recognition of homosexuality in the global North, have started to advocate more acceptance for homosexuality in the global South.

Amnesty, international criticised Nigeria’s stand on the gay people and did a strindent report on the complaints of some gay groups.

 Rashidi Williams, Director of Nigeria’s Queer Alliance Rights Group, had professed that he and his group felt unsafe under the new regulations on LGTBIs. “It has the potential to encourage instigation of violence against gay people and lesbians,” he said.

The group also showed the video of a man laid on a bench in a packed court room in northern Nigeria, screaming in pain as he was being lashed 20 times with an oil-smeared whip. The man had been sentenced to the brutal punishment by an Islamic court for committing “homosexual offences.”

George Ajibade, a Yoruba culture researcher stated that many people widely believed that lesbianism and homosexuality are foreign concepts and colonial imports to Sub-Saharan Africa.

While examining the vital ideas of lesbianism and gay culture among the Yorùbá people of southwestern Nigeria, he argued that the preconceived obscenity of lesbianism and homosexuality among the Yorùbá hinges on the culture of silence within the cultural milieu of the people.

The study concludes that the representation of lesbianism and gay in diverse oral literature, as the repertoire of people’s experiences and worldview, indicated that its presence and practices had been evident in the Yorùbá society.

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