Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr Dalhatu Sarki Tafida refused to receive Nigerian LGBTI protesters, including members of Changing Attitude Nigeria and England, in London during a protest they staged on Tuesday 15 November 2011.
Campaigners staged a “kiss-in” at the Nigerian embassy, Nigeria House, in London to protest against new anti-gay laws.
The protesters noted that the High Commission had been earlier notified of the protest and they had also sent a post card via first class mail, informing the ambassador of the event. The protestors said the notifications were received without any acknowledgement.
The demonstration outside the Nigerian High Commission in London was in protest against the same sex marriage prohibition bill currently sitting at the upper chamber of the Nigeria National Assembly. The protest was organised by the group Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora against Anti Same Sex Laws.
The legislation seeks to criminalise same-sex marriage. It stipulates three years’ jail for a person who enters into a same-sex marriage, and five years’ imprisonment and fines for anyone who “witnesses, abet and aids” an unofficial same-sex marriage.
The group of protesters demanded the repeal of all anti same sex laws in Nigeria. Joining the Nigerian LGBTI and other heterosexual allies was an Australian born, UK based human rights activist, Peter Tatchell.
Nigeria already punishes homosexuality with up to 14 years in prison and gay marriage is not recognised in the country.
The protesters carried placards, banners and slogans with messages such as, “Kiss Homophobia, Bi-phobia and Trans-phobia Goodbye,” “Proudly Gay, Proudly Nigerian,” “Some Nigerians are Gay, Get over it,” “Kiss Anti Same Sex marriage bill and Sodomy laws Goodbye” and “Stop turning us into refugees, Repeal Sodomy laws Now!”.
According to the report circulated by the coordinators of the protest, “The Campaign group’s position paper on the bill, report of the public hearing and 1,000 petition signatures condemning the bill were submitted by Yemisi Ilesanmi and Davis Mac-Iyalla, coordinators of the protest, to the delegated representative of the Nigerian High Commissioner.”
Speaking with BTM, one of the coordinators of the protest, Yemisi Ilesanmi said, that they were outraged that the Nigerian High Commissioner did not deem it fit to attend to the protesters. Instead, he sent a delegate who was later identified as the Chief Security Officer.
Ilesanmi condemned the attitude of the Nigerian ambassador and his senior officials, she said, “the behaviour was unethical, discriminatory and shows a lack of respect and contempt by the High Commissioner for the citizens of Nigeria especially the LGBT community.”
Regardless of the cold reception, Ilesanmi urged the Nigeria ambassador to pass across the message of Nigerians LGBTIs in Diaspora to the Nigerian government. She said, “The Nigerian senate president owes the LGBT community an apology for his opening statement at the public hearing of the anti same-sex marriage bill when he used his personal religious beliefs to justify the homophobic bill, and for allowing Senators and the many religious groups at the hearing to harass and intimidate the few LGBT activists present at the public hearing.”
She added, “The senators should be guided by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria And not by their Bible or Koran, the constitution is what the senators were sworn in to uphold, not holy books.”