Nigerian Embassy in Berlin tries to defend the indefensible

Behind the Mask reports that the Nigerian Embassy in Germany responded to the international reaction to the passage of the same sex marriage prohibition by the Nigerian Senate with a statement on its website defending the Nigerian senate’s vote on the issue. The statement said,

“The debate on this issue, within and outside Nigeria, becomes an unnecessary distraction from the pressing need by the Nigerian government to deliver the dividends of democracy to its people through the provision of educational opportunities, healthcare, employment, basic infrastructure and access to justice.”

It is the Nigerian and other African country’s obsession with homosexuality, fuelled by Christian churches with the backing of right-wing Christian groups in the USA and UK particularly, that is diverting attention and energy from the needs identified as far more urgent. Those pressing for a new anti-gay bill in Nigeria have only themselves to blame for this.

“The government and people of Nigeria recognize the rights of individuals to live their lives as they please. The Nigerian state also has inalienable obligation to uphold public morality within the context of indigenous culture and traditions, which, in this case, may not necessarily be in tandem with those cultures and traditions Nigeria does not wish to challenge or even condemns.”

The government of Nigeria, were it to pass the bill, would clearly not be upholding the right of all Nigerians to live their lives as they please. The anti same gender marriage bill will impose intolerable restrictions on a minority group.

“Nigeria as a nation and a people, have rich culture, norms, traditions which forbid same sex marriage and or any form of sexual relations between same sex, and are prepared to maintain this age-long cultural heritage.”

The law of Nigeria is based on the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary, and also on British common law because of the long history of British colonial involvement. The legal system is therefore similar to the common law systems used in England and Wales and in other Commonwealth countries. This is why laws proscribing homosexuality are found in the majority of Commonwealth countries in Africa.

Same-sex relations in Nigeria pre-date British colonial involvement and are indigenous to Nigeria. The “rich cultural, norms, tradition which forbid same sex marriage” are a British import dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Contradicting the previous paragraph the embassy continued

“Nigeria is an independent and responsible member of the international community, which recognizes and respects the inalienable rights of every individual within its jurisdiction to basic freedoms.

“The embassy, therefore, wishes to appeal for understanding on this matter, which it considers an internal affair of Nigeria and the Nigerian people.

“That as a matter of national and social responsibility, the Nigerian parliament, and indeed, all the arms of government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have the responsibility to protect the customs and tradition of the people. The bill in question was passed by the Nigerian Senate in due consultations with respective constituencies. The other arm of national legislature (House of Representatives) is yet to pass the bill. Neither has the President of the Federal Republic assented to it.”

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