The British Government has defended decisions to increase aid to Nigeria despite a newly-introduced anti-gay law, saying that the country’s government does not actually receive any of the money.
David Cameron in 2013 said that the UK would review its aid programme should the country introduce the law. This year Nigeria’s aid from the UK rose to £268 million from £200 million.
The Department for International Development (DfID) clarified its position to PinkNews on Wednesday, confirming that aid to Nigeria has increased, but that the money actually only goes to organisations such as the UN, an contractors.
A spokesperson for DfID said that the country did receive aid, but that it was distributed through companies such as the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and other contracted services.
He said: “We strongly oppose any form of sexual discrimination and no UK aid money goes to the Nigerian government. Britain only provides direct financial aid when other Governments meet a specific set of principles, including human rights. Our assistance to Nigeria is only provided through agencies like the UN or independent contractors.”
Some have criticised the Government, however noting the 2011 announcement that aid ‘fines’ would be imposed on countries with hardline anti-gay laws.
Prime Minister David Cameron last year said he wouldn’t rule out cutting aid to the country if it introduced the law.
When asked if UK foreign aid should be docked from Nigeria, Mr Cameron said: “We will have to have some conversations with them, as I said nothing is off the table and we should have these conversations, but we also have some very important objectives with the Nigerians for instance to deal with the appalling rates of poverty in the north of Nigeria which [is] part of a problem that affects not just Nigeria but the rest of the world.”
The PM concluded: “But as I said nothing [is] off the table; always prepared to have these conversations, and my view very strongly is that we should have proper equality for lesbian and gay people and that should apply everywhere in the world.”
Under the terms of the new Nigerian law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union may be jailed for up to 14 years, and all such unions entered into abroad are made “void”.
It also bans people who register, operate or participate in gay clubs, societies or organisations, or who publicly show that they are in a same-sex relationship will be punishable with up to ten years in prison – this includes couples holding hands.
“Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria,” the law states.