The Nigerian branch of a gay Anglican group is celebrating its first anniversary this month.

Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN) is commemorating a year of confronting prejudices and working for lesbian and gay affirmation in the country’s Anglican Communion.

Its achievements include gaining recognition from the Church of Nigeria, despite initially being told there were no gays or lesbians in the communion, and later expanding into Abuja, Lagos and other smaller towns and cities.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of CAN, said: “We hosted the first General Meeting in November 2005 in Mocca Club Hall, Arts Council, Abuja. The meeting was the first of its kind in the history of Nigeria and over 1000 LGBT Anglicans turned up from the various dioceses in Nigeria.

“The meeting was reported in the Nigerian Sun newspaper, the Vanguard and the New York Times. The success of the general meeting gave birth to new diocesan groups in Calabar, Jos and Benin. We are currently seeing the possibility of forming another group in the diocese of Warri.”

“The success of the groups and how they were spreading fast across the various diocese in the Church of Nigeria offended Archbishop Peter Akinola and some of his homophobic bishops so much that on the 28 December 2005 without proper consultation with the standing committee of the national church or with the priests in the church of Nigeria, Canon Tunde Popoola issued a press release and disclaimer in an attempt to destroy my reputation.

“All the allegations were false and have been answered on the website of Changing Attitude England. Canon Tunde has to this date failed to produce any proof in support of his allegations.”

Earlier this year, Canon Tunde Popoola, director of communications at the Church of Nigeria issued two press releases on behalf of the Rev Peter Akinola alleging Mr Davis MacIyalla was fraudulently obtaining church documents and stealing large sums of money including salaries.

Canon Popoola has published these allegations but has produced no evidence to substantiate the claims and has also failed to produce evidence of any legal action taken by the Church against Mr MacIyalla in relation to these alleged offences.

The Church of Nigeria has threatened to break away from the Anglican Communion in protest against the ordination of gay bishops. The denomination says it is unfair to have to accommodate gay affirming churches, calling them “a cancerous lump in the body (which) should be excised if it has defied every known cure. To attempt to condition the whole body to accommodate it will lead to the avoidable death of the patient.”

The African church added: “We encourage the Archbishop of Canterbury to persuade those who have chosen to “walk apart” to return to the path chosen by successive generations of our forbears.”

Gay rights are being increasingly impeded in Nigeria, human rights activists recently formed an alliance against the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill now in the National Assembly, which calls for imprisonment for any person who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex”, anyone who helps them and any gay clubs or organisations.

Gay sex is already illegal in Nigeria, Justice Minister Bayo Ojo called homosexual unions ‘unnatural and un-African’ and is supported by a variety of Christian groups.

Many anti-gay activists in the country fear having Western ideas of rights imposed on their communities.