The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a devout Muslim from northern Nigeria, is at war with suspected gay men.
Following a wave of attacks on journalists, activists and political opponents, the Buhari administration seems to have found another set of enemies – men who love, or are accused of loving, other men.
The attacks on journalists, activists and political opponents have triggered fears that Africa’s most populous country may be on the brink of another dictatorship under Buhari, a retired major general whose first coming to power in 1983 was so brutal that when he was overthrown in 1985, many celebrated.
Apart from journalists, activists and those who oppose the government, the battle seems to have expanded to include gays.
Only this week, 47 men pleaded innocent for a charge of allegedly displaying same-sex affection.
Reuters reported that the men were among 57 people arrested in a police raid last year in a hotel in the commercial city of Lagos.
Police officers accused them of being “initiated” into a gay club. The men said they were attending a birthday party.
A judge granted each man bail on Wednesday in the sum of 500,000 naira, or about $1,634. Hearings will resume Dec. 11.
As recalled by the Washington Post, “their trial comes five years after then-Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a law banning same-sex marriage and activities deemed “amorous” outside the bounds of heterosexual relationships”.
The Post added: “Homosexuality is outlawed in 32 African countries, where socially conservative values reign. Many leaders see decriminalizing same-sex unions as promoting them, which, they say, is at odds with their religious traditions”.
“South Africa is the only nation on the continent where LGBTQ rights are guarded in the constitution. Other countries police gay expression with public obscenity charges,
“Those who break the law in Nigeria — which can carry a penalty of up to 14 years in jail — typically face extortion and blackmail, activists say. Others who don’t hide their sexuality face harassment and beatings.