Lawyer sues Nigerian government over gay rights law

The controversy over the passage of the bill that limits sexual minorities has been taken a notch higher with a Nigeria based lawyer, Robert Igbinedion, heading to court to challenge the Senate’s passage of the Same-Sex Prohibition Bill.

In a suit filed at the Federal High Court in Lagos on behalf of the “sexual minorities”, Mr. Igbinedion prayed for an order for the enforcement of fundamental rights to Private and Family life, Freedom from Discrimination, and Human dignity.

Joined in the suit were the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation. The suit also seeks to ensure that people who practice same orientation with counterparts of their opposite sex are not penalized.

Mr. Igbinedion said that he filed the suit because the step taken by the Senate to make a law against LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender) persons is “one too many” by the government to oppress the minority.

“All over Nigeria, the accepted norm now is as long as the majority is happy, the minority can go to hell… and that is the direction we are running into at jet speed. That is not a direction a government should go,” Mr. Igbinedion told Premium Times. “The essence for which government is established is to protect minority,” he added.

In November last year, the Nigerian Upper Legislative House passed the Same Sex prohibition Bill which stipulates up to 14 years imprisonment for gay couples who decides to head to the altar while witnesses to the marriage or anyone who assists the couples to marry could land 10 years behind bars.

The Bill also makes operation or registration of gay clubs or organizations a criminal offence while anyone engaging in a “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly” gets 10 years imprisonment.

While the passage of the bill generated widespread commendation from the majority of Nigerians, international rights groups, including the Amnesty International, expressed displeasure that such a bill “would threaten all Nigerians’ rights.”

If passed into law, the bill would set a precedent that “would threaten all Nigerians’ rights to privacy, equality, free expression, association, and to be free from discrimination,” the groups said.

In filing the suit, which comes up for hearing at the Justice Tsoho court in Ikoyi on May 4th, Mr. Igbinedion said that instead of making a law to protect the minorities from victimization, the Nigerian State is “rather moving in the direction” of criminalizing them.

“I am not gay. Since I filed this action, I have only met one. Before I filed the action, I have never met any in Nigeria. But that gives me more vigour, that empowers me because I am not biased. I have nothing to lose or gain. Even if I have something to gain, I’ll still file it anyway,” said Mr. Igbinedion, a registered foreign lawyer in the United Kingdom.

The Same Sex prohibition Bill is still awaiting a concurrent passage by the House of Representatives and would be signed into law by the President afterwards.

“I will fight it because our law permits it. That is why I’m in court. Chapter 4 of our Constitution says you cannot discriminate, so it permits it,” Mr. Igbinedion said. “And the fundamental rights enforcement procedure rules have given us a clear direction in interpreting our Chapter 4, it says you must look to UN’s decision. And UN’s decision has recognized rights of LGBT persons as fundamental rights,” he added.

The first comment posted on the web site carrying this article exemplifies the teaching and attitudes commonly held in Nigeria and other African countries. It is in this context that LGBTI people live and against which the Nigerian Coalition, including Changing Attitude Nigeria, is campaigning.

“I totally agree that the end times has really come. The signs are glaringly clear but unfortunately, the foolish amongst us have got carried away with mimicking the white man as if they were prophets and messengers! Oopps!!! Actually, they are messengers of the devil. What we and all the peoples of the world should know and be wary of is that the western governments and lobbyists are actually nothing but the agents of the anti-Christ or in Islam what is called Dajjal whose goal is totally anti anything Godly and good. They oppose the laws of God and fight them through deception. Then they replace them with satanic laws that are completely contrary to what God has revealed in His scriptures. They create chaos on earth in order to gain power and domination. Mr R should know that there is a limit to the length a person should go to in emulating these advocates of evil. We have been created with intellect which allows us to see things and judge them rationally before deciding whether they are good or bad. So in copying them let’s take the good and throw a way the bad. Imagine the guts of David Cameron when he said they will deny us any aid if Nigeria fails to legalise sodomy! Is that human rights to force some nations to adopt a way of life that is contrary to their faith, traditions and beliefs. I say this is a proof that they are forcefully trying to consolidate the New World Order which is a one world government governed by the anti-Christ and his devils. May Allah protect us all from their evil.”

Comments

  1. Davis Mac-Iyalla says

    This is a wake up call to all Nigeria Human Rights Activists, time have come when we need to begin to find ways to challenge the antigay/sodomy laws in Nigeria though the civil route.

    Our colleagues in Uganda are making great progress in fighting for their rights openly and I think Nigeria will not be any different.

    Equality and Human Rights for all, the next step in to write to the Anglican Primate of Nigeria and challenge him to start engaging with CA Nigeria.

    The Listening Process is still very much alive.

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