Following news that Nigerian authorities have been arresting gay people in the northern state of Bauchi, Amnesty International (AI) says that more than 10 people have been arrested in a number of other states under the provisions of the recently signed anti-gay law that further criminalizes homosexuality in the country.
Makmid Kamara, AI's West Africa researcher, called for the immediate release of detainees and for the charges to be dropped. "Reports that the police in one state are apparently drawing up lists of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community to target are extremely worrying,” Kamara says, adding that "with the stroke of a pen, President Goodluck Jonathan has essentially turned Nigeria into one of the world’s least tolerant societies."
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has also expressed alarm over reports of the arrests and echoes the hopes of the organization's human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, that the constitutionality of the law will be reviewed.
"The United Nations stands ready to assist Nigeria in any way to bring about constructive dialogue and change on this matter," the secretary-general says in a statement.
According to the law's provisions, anyone who "registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisation, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable to conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.” It also makes it an offence to support “the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies and organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria," the sentence for which is 10 years upon conviction. Anyone who enters into marriage with a person of the same sex faces up to 14 years in prison, and those who witness, perform or aid the solemnization of a gay marriage face a 10-year prison term.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that five men have already appeared in an Islamic court in Bauchi, with four pleading guilty to establishing a gay club.
AFP also reported that Islamic authorities in the state of Kano pledged to crack down on homosexuals, welcoming the president's enactment of the law. The report quotes Usman Nabahani as saying that the plan is to work security forces to ensure enforcement of the new legislation.