Nigerian activists have said that a new bill outlawing same-sex marriage will lead to increased arrests and abuse of anyone suspected to be gay.

Gay sex is already an imprisonable offence in the country, but the new bill would make it illegal for gay couples to live together.

The bill will also mean prison sentences for anyone who “aids and abets” gay couples, such as those working in gay rights organisations or those who perform marriage ceremonies.

The BBC reports that activists told a public committee of the National Assembly which is discussing the bill that that it was “unnecessary” and would result in “widespread” human rights abuses.

“This bill is not necessary, we see no reason why people should be criminalised,” Rashidi Williams, 23, of the Queer Alliance of Nigeria told the committee.

“I did not choose to be gay. It is trial enough to live in this country, we should not create more laws to make us suffer,” he said.

The new law means that anyone who has “entered into a same gender marriage contract” could be jailed for three years.

In the bill, same-sex marriage is defined as gay people living together.

Anyone who “witnesses, abet and aids the solemnisation” of a same gender marriage would face five years in prison, or a fine.

Last month, the country denied it had any LGBT citizens.

The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs told a UN review of human rights in the African nation that there is no gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community in the country.

Addressing the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights in Geneva, Ojo Madueke said: “During our National Consultative Forum, we went out of our way to look for the gay, lesbian and transgender groups but we could not come across any 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.”