Nigerian LGBTI activists join wider civil society protests against fuel subsidy removal

Nigeria’s LGBTI activists joined forces with the rest of civil society to condemn the removal of the fuel subsidy in Nigeria as announced by the President Goodluck Jonathan on New Year’s Day. 

Speaking against the subsidy removal, Dorothy Aken’Ova of INCRESE (the Centre for Sexual Reproductive Rights) said, “I want to subsidy be returned because I do not think that the arithmetic was well thought out. From logic I have problem there, they keep saying that the subsidy is not reaching the masses yet the masses started feeling the pain as soon as it was removed.I am joining my voice to that of the very many Nigerian.”

Olumide Makanjuola of The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIER) said, “Speaking generally, I totally disapprove subsidy removal not because it shouldn’t be removed but because we can’t trust the government. The government has given us reason about economy collapsing if the subsidy is not removed, but we can’t see any effort from their end to help the economy.

“Looking at the 2012 budget, it doesn’t look like a budget for an economy that will collapse in five years as the Minister for Finance claimed.”

Oliver Anene of the Initiative for Improved Male Health (IMH-Initiative) said, “Nigeria can benefit immensely if the revenue from the removal is utilized effectively. But it has come at a time when Nigerians cannot and will not appreciate it. That’s my primary concern.”

Although the discussion about removal of fuel subsidy and deregulation of the petroleum sector has been on-going for over a decade now, Nigerian civil society believes that the current decision of the Federal government is based on advice from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Some have compared this pressure to the recent push by Western countries for the promotion of LGBT rights globally. The Nigerian masses were against that too.

In reaction to this debate, Aken’Ova said, “I don’t want to be fooled by the Western influence debate. There are Western influences they choose [to support] and some they don’t [support]. It has to do with its effect on Nigeria economy. It is not ordinary; it has to do with the country’s national interest. I don’t think that we should mind that distraction that Western influence has caused this crisis.”

Meanwhile, some Nigerian LGBTI activists have seized on reports that during a subsidy protest rally popular musician Seun Kuti made a statement about two men having sex, as a sign that broader civil society may support gay rights. 

Seun Anikulapo-Kuti, the youngest son of legendary afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, is reported to have made a pro-gay comment at a public protest rally in Lagos when he said, “When two men fuck each other, it is better than one man fucking the Nation as a whole.” 

Seun, who leads his father’s former band Egypt 80, is reported to have uttered the words during a protest staged at the Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota, Lagos.

The LGBTI community took the phrase, reportedly uttered by Kuti, as sign that it was time for the LGBTI movement to build alliances with the broader Civil Society movement.

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