The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs has told a UN review of human rights in the African nation that there is no gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community in his country.
Ojo Madueke was addressing the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UNUPR) on Human Rights in Geneva.
During the two-week session, which ended last Friday, interactive discussions were held between the states under review and the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council, and observers.
“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,” Mr Madueke said in his UNUPR address on February 9th.
“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 Nigerian with such sexuality.
“If they are an amorphous group, then the question of violence against them does not arise let alone negotiating special rights for them.”
“Sexual minorities are not visible in Nigeria, and there is no officially registered association of gay and lesbians.
“No sexual minority or their representatives attended the Forum.
“However, in spite of this the issue was brought up at the Forum, and the views of more than 90 per cent of the participants was that Gay-Lesbian relationship or same-sex marriage was not a human rights issue in Nigeria.
“The laws of Nigeria recognise marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. However, like every democracy, those who want a change in the existing laws have to come out and lobby for the change they desire.”
In January Nigeria’s House of Representatives approved the second reading of a bill “to prohibit marriage between persons of same gender.”
The bill would punish people of the same sex who live together “as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship” with up to three years of imprisonment.
Anyone who “witnesses, abet[s] and aids” such a relationship could be imprisoned for up to five years.
The Young Humanistas Network of Nigeria has accused Mr Madueke of being “economical with the truth in his attempts to cover the track of gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the government of Nigeria.”
“He seems to have forgotten that the National Assembly backed by some of the executive council members are currently preparing to enact a law criminalising homosexual activities,” the group said.
The Humanists said that in 2003 Dare Odumade, of the Alliance Rights Nigeria, organised a Nigeria National Homosexual Conference, which was well attended by over one hundred Nigerians.
They also pointed to the arrest of Rev. Macaulay, a gay pastor, and the continued disruption of activities at his church in Lagos as another example of “gross violations and torture of the LGBT community in Nigeria.”
The group has called on the Foreign Minister to tender “an unreserved apology to the LGBT individuals in Nigeria.” and said Parliament should drop the homophobic bill.
Amnesty Inernational said the proposed law, which would require the approval of the Senate and the President, violates the rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of private and family life, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of association, guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution and by human rights treaties.
Concerns were raised in a joint public statement issued by the Nigerian Bar Association Human Rights Institute, Nigerian nongovernmental organisations, and Amnesty International.
The European Parliament’s Intergroup on gay rights has called for a suspension of EU aid to Nigeria.
“The only result this law is going to achieve is a raising hatred against gay, lesbian and transgender citizens of Nigeria,” said Michael Cashman, Labour MEP and President of the LGBT Intergroup.
“I do not understand how legislators in such a big and diverse country can be so cruel and indifferent to millions of their own people who are already such a marginalised and oppressed minority in their country.”
The Intergroup is sending a request to the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid to evaluate the financial support given to Nigeria unless the state homophobia in the country is terminated.
Nigerian law states that anyone who has “carnal knowledge of any person against order of nature or permits a male to have carnal knowledge of him” can be imprisoned for 14 years.