Monday 16 February 2009

Nigerian Government lies to the UN

The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs made a statement to the UN periodic review of human rights in Geneva on 9th February. The United Kingdom had asked to know the position of the Nigerian Government on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Davis Mac-Iyalla and other leaders of Changing Attitude Nigeria reacted with fury and described the statement as a lie.

The Minister, Ojo Madueke, said:

“As we have indicated in our National Report, we have no record of any group of Nigerians, who have come together under the umbrella of “Lesbian, Gay and Transgender” group, let alone to start talking of their rights.”

“During our National Consultative Forum, we went out of our way to look for the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender group, but we could not come across Nigerians with such sexuality.”

I agree with Davis and the other leaders – this is a blatant lie. Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN) and other LGBT groups exist in Nigeria. CAN is a group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The group has received widespread publicity in the Nigerian media and online. The group is well known to the hierarchy of the Church of Nigeria, as documents on the CA website prove. Senior bishops and archbishops have close connections with the government. LGBT contacts in Nigeria repeatedly tell me of politicians and senior government figures who are known to be gay.

It is a lie that the National Consultative Forum went out of its way to look for LGBT people. They didn’t look very far. An Google search for LGBT Nigeria groups lists as the first find, a report of CAN’s letter to the Anglican Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam in May 2007.

The report continues:

“If they are an amorphous group, then the question of violence against them does not arise, let alone negotiating special rights for them.”

As reports on the web site show, LGBT people in Nigeria are repeatedly subject to violence, by the police as well as civilians. The UK Government has granted asylum to Davis Mac-Iyalla and Stephen Wariebi Hobo because they were deemed to be at serious risk were they to return to Nigeria.

I fear I will wait in vain for Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Church of Nigeria to denounce the report and remind the Nigerian Government of the presence of LGBT people and CAN as an advocacy group. How about CANA and Bishop Martyn Minns, Anglican Mainstream, and all the other conservative groups working to divide the Communion on the basis of people’s sexuality? Do they only acknowledge the presence of LGBT people in North America, or will they have the courage to admit meeting Davis?

My fear is for the tens of thousands of LGBT people in Nigeria who live in fear in a country that is institutionally homophobic, with encouragement from the church. As one of my friends in Nigeria commented:

“They know fully well that its not true, it’s all lies. Nobody will even want to come out now, they 'll be more scared. Anyone who stands to be blunt and truthful about anything they silence. They see magazines each day publish gay stories in the same country that we live in right before the Minister’s nose in Abuja where he lives. That report I find very, very annoying and if I was to write publicly about it, they would even arrest me. It’s their way of putting every LGBT person's work to waste so people can feel nothing happens here and I wonder which person would even try to think that gays don't exist in Nigeria.”

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