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Advocate for LGBT rights where homosexuality is a crime

He fought for equality in a country where sexual difference is punishable by stoning. Metro spoke with Rashidi Williams, one of the only LGBT activists because Nigeria who dare lead his face in battle discovered.

Mr. Williams, aged 29, was invited to Montreal by Equitas organization, held this week a rally at which more than 150 human rights defenders involved.

Nigeria, like other African countries, adopted in January 2014 a law that criminalizes homosexuality. How does it affect you?
This law is an embarrassment to all Nigerians and a disaster for the LGBT community, which is now in danger because it is perceived as criminal.

This law is a permission to violate the LGBT community in the country. Shortly after its adoption, raids took place in the districts of Abuja, the capital, and those suspected of being homosexual were beaten. None of the executioners has been sentenced to anything. In this kind of aggression, are often the victims who find themselves behind bars. When this is not the police themselves who carry out arbitrary arrests of gays to extort money in exchange for their release.

Homosexuality has always been illegal in Nigeria. When did you realize you were a criminal because you were who you are?
From the moment I knew I was gay, I was aware that the society around me considered me an off-the-law. It’s been hard, but it’s been even more difficult to choose to live in harmony with who I am.

    “I realized that I was a criminal in the eyes of my country the day I knew I was gay.” -Rashidi Williams, activist for LGBT rights in Nigeria Queer Alliance

Have you declared your homosexuality to your parents?
My family is made up of Christians and Muslims. It was easy for anyone to accept my difference, but my family had to, because that’s what I am. Now she helps me to carry the burden of my activism. If other families rode in front with us to address the government and say, “You have no right to criminalize my son for his way of loving” things would change.

What explains the intolerance of the LGBT community that seems to permeate African society?
It has nothing to do with culture. Religion is for many, and these are religions imposed by colonialism. The settlers, with them, brought their homophobia in Africa.
Act of January 13, 2014

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed January 13, 2014 a very repressive law against sexual minorities. It provides up to 14 years in prison for homosexuals found “guilty” of having had sex.

In the 12 states of the country where sharia, the same “crime” is punishable by death by stoning. No law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in Nigeria. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act contravenes the country’s constitution, which guarantees every citizen equal before the law, and several treaties acceded, according to Human Rights Watch.
2.8

Some 2.8 billion people live in countries where homosexuality can lead to prison, physical laceration, even death. Only 20 countries in the world recognize marriage between same sex.
Two weights, two measures

Nigeria is not the only African country to have adopted laws similar to Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Uganda and Gambia have also adopted measures that discriminate against people with different orientation and gender identity. The United States imposed sanctions on both countries, but not in Nigeria, a richer and larger countries on a geostrategic level.

“I am disappointed by this, says Rashidi Williams to Metro. It reflects not only that there are two weights, two measures in diplomatic matters, but also in terms of human rights. ”

The consequences of laws such as the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act are yet many serious for sexual minorities in Nigeria.

“Shortly after the adoption of the law, 14 men broke into a neighborhood Abuja to pick on people they suspected of homosexuality, breaking into their home to humiliate them and hit them, says Mr. Williams. This climate of fear that is established in several pushes to live their love in secret. ”

In Nigeria, which is the third country most affected by the HIV virus in the world, many homosexuals who do not dare go see their doctor or who no longer receive their treatment.

“We found a dramatic decrease in the number of men seeking health care, says Williams, adding that the number of attacks against the LGBT minority, he soared.

Does he believe that a tragedy such as occurred in Orlando Sunday will change attitudes in the country? “Africa is united against this senseless violence, no matter against whom it is directed. Even former President Goodluck Jonathan has offered condolences to the victims of Orlando. “

 

(sourced from http://journalmetro.com/monde/979237/militer-pour-les-droits-lgbt-la-ou-lhomosexualite-est-un-crime/# )

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Statement on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia 2016

Today, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people stand in uniformity all over the world calling for the elimination of homophobia and transphobia. However, placing this in context also points to celebrating bodies, blessed bodies, especially of Nigerians who identity as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people. As an organization working to advocate for the human rights of this populations, we stand in affirmation of the right over our bodies and condemn homophobia and transphobia as an ugliness, that derides people of their human dignity and criminalize them for who they love or are attracted to.

Nigeria as a nation continues to uphold laws that criminalize and make possible violence against its citizens on the grounds of perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity. These laws are expounded in Section 214 to 217 of the Criminal Code, Section 130 – 133 of the Sharia Penal Code and most recently the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2013.  As citizens of our beloved country, we unequivocally state that these laws are archaic, draconian, stigmatizing and an entry for violence on our lives. In fact our lived realities as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people are shaped by these legal provisions and as part of the labour force of the nation, we can no longer accept the criminalization of our bodies. Laws or legal provisions conflicting with the constitutional protection of the fundamental human rights of all citizens needs be reformed in light of the current science of human sexuality. Culture, tradition and religions are no grounds for the continued persecution and criminalization of LGBT people. And we categorically state that homosexuality is no crime. We are not criminals and refuse the stigmatizing label attached to our lives.

As an organization and individuals, we also use today to call out to religious leaders, pointing out the wrongness of homophobia and transphobia and condemning sermons that continue to afflict us as human beings, created by one God. These sermons are traumatic and do not reflect the salvation to which we have all been called.  As religious leaders, we call out for the use of your religious powers and offices in the pursuit of human dignity, showing that we are all indeed created in the one image of God.

Parents and friends of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people also need to understand that sexuality is not chosen by free will. It is an inherent part of a human being, shaped by both nature and nurture. We call out to parents to show acceptance and love to their children who are lesbians, gays, bisexual and trans people, supporting them to lead their lives in a way that reflects integrity of who they really are.

In closing, we strongly express that love is not a political matter, neither is it a cultural or traditional issue. It is a basic human need and human right. Thus, we proclaim our bodies as blessed, sanctified, whole and holy.

 

Rashidi  Williams

Organizational Director, Queer Alliance Nigeria

 

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO MIKE ENAHORO EBAH: The rules don’t say I can’t brag for you

Dear Mike,
The ethics of the Nigerian legal profession tell law students, and lawyers, that it is unethical for Nigerian lawyers to solicit their services to clients unless they are approached. We are forbidden to go out there to grab the cases by their necks. We are also told that it is unethical for Nigerian lawyers to advertise anything beyond modestly or discuss their matters with the press while they are in court, and not to flaunt their success afterwards. So we leave the Nigerian law school quite uncertain how we are to become Harvey Spector, Olivia Pope or Superman in a Nigeria where success and financial fulfilment flows only from reasonable conformity, even when you are self-employed. So as lawyers we are out here in the world on our virtual Nigerian thrones waiting for the bruised, broken and violated clients to approach us. Do we really?
What if they do not come? What if they believe that lawyers are liars? What if they believe that we are all as corrupt and exploitative as the ones who violate them? What if they can’t afford our fees or our presence? What if listening to them cannot afford us the lives, assets and exotic trips abroad we see flaunted by our learned ‘brothers’ and seniors? As if this is not bad enough, what if they are the very ones the society has prejudged as evil, miscreant, unreasonable, vile, and criminal? What if we our jobs as associates , partners, paid legal staffs, paralegals, assistants, public office holders, legal assistants, personal assistants, fathers, teachers, mentors, pastors, friends and lovers are hinged on avoiding, ignoring and walking away from them, even if they approach us?
But you Mike. You have crossed the line. Fortunately for us, not in the way that violate the scripted Rules of Professional Conduct, but in the way that mocks, taunts and slams the unscripted ones in the face- the ones that reek of bigotry, prejudice and indifference to the cause of vulnerable people.
I did not know of Joseph Terriah Ebah and Ifeanyi Orazulike’s case until recently. I confess that prior to being called to bar, I was not one to sink into verbose, thick volume law reports, ceaseless news and current affairs save for narrowed down and deliberate research purposes. Interestingly, I did not read about your participation in these cases from the law reports, but from blog and online news posts dating as far back as 2014.
Mr. Joseph’s case did not go so well. I would have been shocked if it did, given the fiercely homophobic legal climate at the time. The clouds are still dark by the way. But learning of the victory in the case of Ifeanyi Orazulike v. Inspector General of Police and Abuja Environmental Protection Board of last month at the Federal High Court Abuja, Nigeria, I now see colours in the Nigerian sky. There is hope. Fortunately for us, someone at the bench sees that a right is a right, and a human is a human regardless of where he /she is or what he/she is doing. And some one at the bar is firm enough to fight for it.
Mike, I am proud of you, not because you are the fore-front of Nigerian LGBTIA rights litigation but because you have insisted on staying there, and fiercely so, in spite of the odds, insecurity, snail-pace of our judicial system, pressure from the public and from within. You have stood strong and you have seen Ifeanyi’s case to the end. It has come out well. We have been heard and seen.
Before now, I have not thought of the Nigerian court rooms as a place where LGBTIA rights could stand, be heard and protected, at least for now. But you have shamed my pessimism. And I’m all the more blessed for it, we are all blessed for it.
I know that the Nigerian LGBTIA rights battle is far from being over. I know that not all the violations will get to court. But the ones that must, must. I have a role model in you sir. And I hope to learn more as time advances. You have just proven to me more that Nigeria is a place where anything and anyone can happen.
You remind me of a thought that haunted me years back: an activist is not activist for his gifts, opportunities or compliance with the ethics of human rights, but for his stubbornness, resilience and resolution to cross most of the lines. You have crossed this line. This means that we have crossed. This means that we can cross.
I know that the Rules of Professional Conduct will frown at you for bragging, if you did. But it does not say that I cannot brag for you. So here goes: You are a hot, powerful and cut-throat dagger of a lawyer, activist and ally. If only you can reproduce yourself, so that this battle can swish-swish twice as fast, twice as powerful, twice as effective. And even in multiples of three to hundreds.
I think Superman is quite overrated. Harvey Spector and Olivia Pope, not Nigerian enough to stand this heat. So I have decided that when next I don my wig and gown in Nigeria, or anywhere in the world, I will be mirroring you, inshallah- if I can find the stamina to successfully pull it off.
We still have rules, Mike- the ugly unscripted ones. For some reason they are an inalienable part of our bar. But then, what is a fight without a scar? Sex without a burn? Heights without a rush? And activism without the barriers and ‘do-nots’?
Thanks for winning this, for standing out. For showing us, me. You are God sent. You and all that you are and stand for.

Obilu,
Nnanna.

The human security implications of anti-gay law on sexual minority in Nigeria

By Toyin Ajao:Toyin

Introduction

On 7th January 2014, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed an anti-gay bill into law, with punishments including 14 years imprisonment for anyone that enters into same-sex marriage, 10 years for any organization or people that support gay rights as well as any individual who displays same-sex affection in public. This invasive law made Nigeria the 36th country in Africa to prosecute gays. Following suit, Uganda passed its own anti-gay law on the 24th of February 2014. This development is perturbing as it empowered the population and provided a common ground on which to unite and persecute sexual minority. What the law has validated is the homophobic stances of religious and cultural beliefs that homosexuality is ‘unnatural’, ‘unAfrican’ and ‘immoral’, without a critical engagement with its human rights and human security implications.

It is very germane to reflect on the Nigerian anti-gay law in the context of peace and conflict, particularly through the lens of human security. This is because the current discourse has largely captured the human rights paradigm, rather than its human security element.

The emerging paradigm of human security was promulgated in the ‘Human Rights Report’ by the UNDP in 1994.[i] The imperative components of Human Security as encapsulated by Abass are: freedom from fear and want, and the guaranteed fulfilment of individuals. ‘Human security’ has similar components to the human rights concepts, but human security has more far-reaching practical implications from the perspective of peace and conflict. The difference however is in the approaches of these two concepts. This is a shift in the traditional state-based approach to security where the rights of one group can be placed above the other to protect their political interest at the expense of the other group. Human security focuses on human crises that need practical interventions without which there will continue to be obstacles to human development. The practical components of human security include the individual protection from internal and external threats, access to food security, health care, education, environmental security, personal safety, human rights, effective governance and absence of violent conflicts.[ii] This makes it pertinent to look at the anti-gay law in the contemporary discourse from the human security perspective.

 The case of homosexuality in Africa

Many scholars have squashed claims that homosexuality is ‘unAfrican’. As Tamale argues, colonization came with draconian rules and laws that categorized many practices including homosexuality in Africa as horrendous and ‘barbaric’.[iii] Tamale further challenged the claim that homosexuality is not part of African culture with ‘culture’ in contemporary Africa being an interpretation and construction of the colonialists and patriarchs.[iv] This dilemma within African communities essentially states the white ‘other’ construction of their reality. Ilesanmi also debunks the myths of the ‘UnAfricanness’ outcry in her reflection that homosexuality existed in African society before the advent of imperialism and colonialism.[v] She argues that the multi-cultural nature of African society embraced diversity and tolerance in its practices before the importation of foreign religions, which has subsequently dominated the discourse and rhetoric of African identity and society.[vi] Furthermore, in the Amnesty International report on criminalization of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa, it was highlighted that African colonizers brought the laws that criminalize homosexual practices in Africa with a determination to expunge what is considered ‘unnatural’. [vii]

Dlamini also argues the ‘compatibility of homosexuality with African culture, cosmology and spirituality’ by reviewing selected critical texts of ‘homosexuality in Africa’.[viii] Dlamini states that western colonization imported homophobia, and not homosexuality, to Africa.[ix] This he justified by citing homosexual practices in Africa before the spread of ‘civilization’ by the West. Some of the examples are: Sango the effeminate Yoruba deity in the pre-modern history of Africa revered and worshiped with his affinity for cross dressing and ‘feminine’ hairdo; the Azande warriors in Congo, known to marry other warriors and serve as temporary wives; and lastly, the Hausa ‘Yan Daudu’ men in Northern Nigeria recognized as individuals whose gender expressions are very effeminate and displayed strong affinity for cross-dressing. These aforementioned practices were not frowned upon or criticized until Africa’s colonization.

The new waves of western missionaries have built on the homophobic rhetoric and strengthened it. This is due to the proselytization of Africans during and after colonization: a classic enabling factor for the promotion of the anti-gay agenda in Africa. With the contemporary understanding of ‘culture’ and the less well-understood pre-colonial history of Africa, many Africans’ believed that homosexuality was a ‘Western invention’. The international community, witnessing the impediment of gay rights in Africa, has been making attempts to prove that homosexuality is not their invention but a human reality. Nevertheless, Western evangelicals are influencing anti-gay campaigns in Africa as homophobic funding trickles in from Western Christian Organizations.[x]

Furthermore, the religious fundamentalist’s alignment with state power has intensified homophobia in Africa.[xi] Nigeria is a case in point. Apart from losing the rich historical culture on sexual diversity, the incessant conflict of interests between the African leadership and the West is a key area of interest influencing decisions on gay rights. Syed argues that, ‘pressure from the West only emboldens the religious fundamentalists and their political allies’[xii] to victimize the already marginalized group. Another very central reason is the leadership of patronage and the institutionalization of religious belief in Nigeria.[xiii] Consequently, the growth of Christian and Islamic fundamentalism in Nigeria has a strong impact in the criminalization of the Nigerian sexual minorities.

What then are the threats to this human security?

By passing the anti-gay law in Nigeria, the Nigerian government has strengthened the penal codes that exist in Northern Nigeria to execute, jail or punish anyone considered homosexual. This has helped widen the scourge of discrimination that Nigerian sexual minorities already endure.

 There has been a known culture of open antagonism, discrimination and hatred for sexual minorities in Nigeria, with the government legitimizing this discrimination and hatred. As a result, there are continuous incidents of gays, or people perceived to be gay, being evicted illegally from their homes, stripped naked, tortured, or beaten. A recent example was the five alleged gays stripped, beaten and paraded naked in Warri in March 2014.[xiv]

 Furthermore,the Nigerian police force that is notorious for abuse and exploitation of their citizens has now gained more legal status to continue this act as a result of the passing of anti-gay bill into law. Arbitrary arrests and detention of real and perceived homosexuals have continued to take place. This law has exponentially compromised the personal safety of Nigerian sexual minority, or those perceived or accused of being gay.

Some NGOs that render support to sexual minority are under threats because of the clause in the anti-gay law that spells out 10 years for any organisations caught supporting this group. In the wake of the anti-gay laws, a few organizations working for the defence of LGBT rights fear recriminations and have to be extremely careful about their interventions as not to risk jail terms imposed by the law. Many organizations that have done incredible work in advocacy, lobbying and service provision for the protections of sexual minorities are been forced into silence by this law. This is a breach of the constitutional and democratic freedoms of non-governmental organizations in Nigeria. With most organizations clamped down upon by this law, exploitation and illegal prosecution of perceived and real homosexuals can only rise.

Another significant threat is access to quality health care. Available statistics revealed that there are about 3.7 million Nigerians living with HIV.[xv] With this new law, homosexuals living with HIV/AIDS are likely to go underground for fear of prosecution. The likelihood of spreading HIV/AIDS with those forced underground will increase thereby leading to a greater health hazard. NGOs working on issues of sexual minorities and providing health services will have trouble delivering adequate services as well. Unfortunately, the anti-gay discrimination may fuel the African HIV/AIDS epidemic in Nigeria. Part of the ongoing efforts with the World Health Organization, ‘to eliminate health disparities across board, notably including those impacting the LGBT community’ will be hampered.[xvi]

Fuelling more threats both internally and externally is the media.As the mainstream media highlights awareness on gay rights, so also is the platform used for promoting hate and discrimination. The effect of media ‘sensationalist tabloids’ on gay rights has been negative.[xvii] Through some media outlets the categorization of homosexuality as ‘unnatural’, ‘ungodly’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘unAfrican’, as gained high profile debate and prominent visibility.[xviii] Some Nigerian TV stations and online newspapers are culprit. Also, traditional media in so many ways have contributed to ‘witch-hunting’ of gays by ‘linking same-sex attraction with incest, paedophilia, bestiality, and adultery’.[xix] Negative reporting can only further endanger the lives of sexual minorities who are already marginalized.

 Finally, there is growth in the number of asylum seekers from Nigeria. Ilesanmi in her interview on ThisDay newspaper explained that many homosexuals have been forced to seek asylum outside their country, leading to more ‘brain drain’.[xx] This has increased rapidly since the bill became law. Sadly, many skilled individuals who were contributors to Nigeria’s economic development and growth are fleeing persecution by their government.

 Conclusion

It is unpalatable that sexual minorities in Africa are used as collateral damage in the global war of power and self-determination. We live in a global village, with opposition and support for homosexuality, which is not totally strange in human relations. However, the Nigerian government has not shown objectivity or understanding of the threats to human security in the position taken against its sexual minorities. The atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance has dimmed significantly. Both the political and religious leaders have been part of the crusade of homosexual persecution and prosecution. Nigeria needs conversations that are open to change and that demonstrate respect for human rights and diversity.

Whilst it would help for political leaders to repeal the laws that criminalized sexual minorities, a move towards evidence-based research on sexuality issues is crucial. This is an important step that will be useful in educating the Nigerian society. Until such moves are made human rights and human security will continue to suffer imminent threats and Nigeria will continue to be seen as a retrogressive nation.

 

______________

Toyin Ajao is a Peace and Conflict doctoral fellow and an assistant lecturer at the University of Pretoria. She is also an alumnus of the Africa Leadership Centre at King’s College, London and Obafemi Awolowo University. Her research focus includes: human security, conflict transformation, citizen journalism and gender and sexual rights.

 

NOTES

[i] See Abass, A. (2010) An Introduction to Protecting Human Security in Africa. In Protecting Human Security in Africa. 1-20.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] See Tamale, S. (2009) A Human Rights Impact Assessment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Public Dialogue. Kampala: 1-6.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] See Ilesanmi, Y. (2013) Freedom to Love for All; Homosexuality is not UnAfrican!
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] See Amnesty International (2013). Making Love a crime: Criminalization of Same-sex conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa.
[viii] See Dlamini, B. (2011) Homosexuality in the African context. Agenda: Empowering women for gender equity : 128-136.
[ix] Ibid.
[x]See http://www.voanews.com/content/lesbian_gay_rights_in_africa_hit_roadblocks/1512357.html
[xi] See Ossome, L. (2013) Postcolonial Discourses of Queer Activism and Class in Africa. In Queer Africa Reader. 32-47.
[xii]Seehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16068010
[xiii] See Sampson, T. I. (2012) Religious violence in Nigeria: Causal diagnoses an strategic recommendations to the state and religious communities. AJCR Volume 12 No. 1: 103-134.
[xiv]See http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/blog/gay-men-publicly-stripped-and-beaten-nigeria.
[xv] See http://www.avert.org/hiv-aids-nigeria.htm
[xvi] See Daulaire, N. (2013) The Importance of LGBT Health on a Global Scale. LGBT Health 24 July: 1-2.
[xvii] See Johnson, C. A. (2007) Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS Programming is failing Same-sex Practicing People in Africa.
[xviii] Ibid.
[xix] Ibid.
[xx]See http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/our-senators-are-hypocrites/104344/

(sourced from https://strifeblog.org/2014/06/10/the-human-security-implications-of-anti-gay-law-on-sexual-minority-in-nigeria/ )

Which Agenda Is Nigeria Pushing At The UN?

The Nigerian government has taken its campaign of hatred and discrimination against homosexuals to the United Nations. It has asked the UN secretariat to stop the issuance of a postage stamp that ‘celebrates homosexuality and trangenderism’.

Nigerian Ambassador Usman Sarki
Nigerian Ambassador Usman Sarki

Nigerian Ambassador Usman Sarki deployed the same falsehood and misrepresentation which the government used to justify the criminalization of gay marriage in Nigeria to push for the cancellation of the stamp.

He said: “We are distressed and alarmed that the United Nations has adopted an activist stance on a matter that does not enjoy consensus – or, for that matter, majority support among all its member States. What is clear to many is that the UN has now decided without any reservation or hesitation to side with a minority of Member States and practitioners of this lifestyle, in complete disregard of the wishes and concerns of the majority of its member States and the populations that they represent”.

Ambasador Sarki says ‘We are ‘distressed and alarmed’ right? So, who are the ‘we’? It is important to state that Ambassador Usman Sarki represents the Nigerian state not its population because there are many Nigerians who are not distressed or alarmed by the issuance of a postage stamp to recognize the human rights of homosexuals.

Millions of Nigerians have other issues to worry about like tackling poverty, unemployment, and insecurity – which the government that Usman Sarki is representing at the UN is practically doing nothing to tackle and resolve. I mean Sarki is not representing the position of millions of Nigerians that support without reservation and hesitation the efforts of the UN to protect the rights of religious, ethnic or sexual minorities. In fact millions of Nigerians want the UN not to cave to pressure and blackmail from homophobic member states. As the last bastion of hope, the UN should side with the minorities in fighting oppression and persecution by member states.
Sarki reminds the UN of the limits of its mandate while forgetting the limits of the mandate of member states.

He said: “It is in that regard that we wish to remind the UN to limit itself strictly to activities mandated by Member States and especially to promote issues that are beneficial to mankind rather than lend itself as tool to promote aberrant behavior under the guise of promoting human rights.”

It is also important for the UN to remind the likes of Ambassador Usman Sarki of the responsibility of member states to protecting the rights of sexual minorities and that the idea of crying foul because postage stamps are being issued in recognition of the rights for homosexuals and transsexuals is incompatible with the human rights obligations of member states. Also the UN should make it clear that states which oppose such initiatives lend themselves as tools to spread homophobia, not human rights of their citizens.

Sarki never disguised the homophobic agenda of Nigeria at the UN in his concluding statements.

He noted: “The UN should not take unilateral decisions on such sensitive matters that offend the sensibilities of the majority of its Member States, and contradict their religious beliefs, cultures, traditions and laws. If it must act in this fashion, the UN should promote issues that enjoy consensus and, at the same time, advance the dignity of people and their genuine human rights. In the light of this concern, we call upon the UN not to proceed with this event and to put an end to all processes that are currently in place in all its agencies, funds and programs that promote and legitimize this tendency on which there is no consensus among member states”

Ambassador Sarki is peddling falsehood by saying that recognizing the rights of homosexuals offends the sensibilities of most Nigerians and that such initiative contradicts their religious, cultural and traditional beliefs? How did he know the sensibilities of the majority?

No doubt, there are religious fundamentalists in Nigeria who claim that respecting the rights of gay people is incompatible with their Christian or Islamic beliefs. These extremists sanction death for homosexuals. In Northern Nigeria, some of these elements are members and supporters of Boko Haram and are fighting to enthrone an Islamic state and implement a stricter version of the sharia law. Nigeria cannot, on one hand, be waging a fierce battle against this extremist group at home, and at the same time be furthering the agenda of Boko Haram at the UN.

(Sourced from http://www.newsghana.com.gh/which-agenda-is-nigeria-pushing-at-the-un/)

NIGERIA: LGBTI RIGHTS SITUATION REPORT 2016

1.1 Background:
2014 was an interesting year for Africa’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI) community. As usual Nigeria was in the international news: it had enacted the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013(the Act), criminalising the existence, expression, support, direct or indirect sustenance or inclusion of same-sex relationships, LGBTI groups or individuals with 10 and 14years imprisonment depending on the particular offence committed. This is in addition to the already existing Criminal Code and Penal Code stipulation which provide for imprisonment and death by stoning respectively.
The world protested that the Act was unconstitutional and violation of Nigeria’s numerous constitutional, regional and international human rights treaty commitments which demand the right to personal dignity and equal enjoyment of rights without discrimination or unjust restrictions but Nigeria remained unflinching. The effects of the Act are limitless and increase as time advances.
2.1. The negative effects of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2013
The Act legitimates homophobia and the argument that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is against our cultural heritage as Africans. Needless to say, The Act, in 2014, resulted in countless reported and unreported human rights violations nationwide especially targeted at the Nigerian Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex(LGBTI) community and those suspected to be members or allies both by state and non-state actors.
Some of the relevant, but not so popular cases that made it to court are :
2.1.1 Ifeanyi Orazulike v. Inspector General of Police & Another
The applicant, (a health worker and LGBTI rights activist) brought action against the government for violating his rights to privacy, dignity of human person, peaceful assembly, amongst others, in response to a police raid at his Abuja office on 22nd October 2014, and his subsequent unlawful arrest and detention (for 4 hours at a location outside the police station, only to be released after several calls and protests had been made by colleagues and allies). This case is yet to the receive judgement at the trial court till date.

2.1.2. Mr. Teriah Ebah v. Federal Government of Nigeria
The applicant (an England based Nigerian accountant), brought an action demanding that the court declare the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act illegal, unjust and unconstitutional. However, the court struck out the case on the grounds that the applicant was not part of the LGBTI community, is in no way affected by THE ACT and as such has no locus standi or right to bring such application before the court.
In 2014, 105 cases of LGBTI rights violation were reported under the human rights infograph developed by the Initiative for Equal Rights(TIERS) with the support of five other LGBTI focused organisations in Nigeria- Advocate for Grassroots Empowerment(AGE); Access to Good Health Initiative(AGHI); Access to Health and Rights Development Initiative (AHRDI); International Centre for Advocacy on Rights to Health (ICARH); Improved Sexual Health and Rights Advocacy Initiative.
2.2. 2015 LGBTI rights violations
In the face of the events of 2014, 2015 was worse. More violence and violation of human rights were targeted at the Nigerian LGBTI community. The ‘2015 Report on Human Rights Violations Based on Real or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Nigeria’, thereafter the Report(prepared by the Initiative for Equal Rights in collaboration with the five other Nigerian LGBTI focused and inclusive organisations mentioned above) records that such human rights violation were occasioned through:

2.2.1 Forms of violence
a. Arbitrary arrests
b. Unlawful detention
c. Blackmail and Extortion
d. Battery and Assault
e. Mob violence
f. Threat to life
g. Kidnapping
h. Curative rape
i. Invasion of Privacy
j. Forceful eviction
k. Defamation
l. Torture
m. Stigma and Discrimination
n. Attempted Murder
o. Wrongful dismissal from employment
Not all cases of violation were reported. For the reported cases, however, for security reasons the actual names of the victims who reported were not included to forestall the chances of further violation.
2.3. Violations of LGBTI rights as recorded across Nigerian states in 2015
STATE NUMBER OF CASES REPORTED
a. Abia 3
b. Abuja 23
c. Adamawa 2
d. Anambra 10
e. Borno 3
f. Delta 3
g. Ebonyi 2
h. Enugu 47
i. Gombe 1
j. Imo 3
k. Jigawa 4
l. Kano 13
m. Katsina 1
n. Lagos 31
o. Oyo 1
p. Rivers 21
q. Sokoto 3
r. Zamfara 1
The Report sums up that in 2015, from the 172 violations reported, recorded and verified, 282 persons were violated across 18 states by 7 organisations in Nigeria. The perpetrators recorded to be responsible includes state actors(38 violations); non-state actors (124 violations); collaboratively between state and non-state actors(10 violations).
2.4. Some cases of LGBTI rights violations are equally recorded as follows:
2.4.1. Violation of right to privacy, right to dignity of person, freedom of expression
i. Date: 22nd January, 2015
Location: Lagos Nigeria
Tari, male, was accosted, on his way to work, at a bus stop in Shomolu by police officers who demanded a body search. He obliged. After the search, they demanded to search his phone. In the course of the search, he was quizzed on the persons he conversed with in his private chat as they hinted of homosexual interactions. Subsequently, he was arrested and detained.
ii. Date: 5th June, 2015
Location: Lagos, Nigeria
Caleb, male and effeminate, walking home at night, was intercepted at Apapa Lagos by some boys who violently teased and taunted him about his mannerisms. The boys brutally assaulted him, stripped him of certain personal items and warned him to desist from being effeminate. They threatened to repeat the episode if he did not comply.

iii. Date: 29th September, 2015
Location: Onitsha, Anambra State
Mr Emeka, a lawful occupant and tenant at X address had his residence trespassed by the landlord’s daughter. She took his mobile phone and, without his permission, searched its contents. On discovering a private chat between Mr Emeka and his boyfriend, she told her parents. They were alarmed and invited the police who arrested Mr Emeka instantly. The landlord’s son intervened at the police station and Mr. Emeka was released.
2.4.2 Violation of right to life, personal dignity
i. Date: 2nd January 2015
Location: Abba, Ukpo and Akwa, all in Anambra State
Mr X,(gay) was invited to location Z within the community, by Mr Y(pretending to be gay and attracted to Mr X) whom he had been chatting with on an online social network. On Mr X’s arrival, Mr Y and some other men brutally assaulted Mr X, took down his home address and extorted N5,000(equivalent of $17) from him. Subsequently they demanded that Mr X made a continuous monthly payment of the above stated amount, failure of which will attract further brutality until death. After four months of diligent payment, Mr X could no longer afford to continue paying. Mr Y and the other men, in the company of the community youths(whom they had invited) broke into Mr X’s residence to brutally assault him. In the course of this, the police intercepted only to arrest Mr X. Subsequently, Mr X was detained, tortured and compelled to mention the names of other gay men in the community. Arrests were made. However, one of the named and arrested men contacted a lawyer who intervened and the matter was resolved.
ii. Date: 2015
Location: Oshodi, Lagos
A 19 year old female student was raped by five men. They told her it was her punishment for loving women instead of looking for men. In the course of the violation they told her that her sexual orientation will change if strong men have sex with her.
The ‘2015 Report on Human Rights and Violations Based On Real or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Nigeria’, unfortunately is not exhaustive of the LGBTI rights violation that occurred in 2015 in Nigeria. This is because a larger fraction of the victim population are too terrified of the stigma that may follow speaking up or going public with such violation (this will be indirectly going public with their sexuality thus attracting further violation and threat to their lives).
2.4.3. Violation of right to life, freedom of association, freedom of expression
The Acr and the increasing rate of LGBTI rights violation has threatened the security and freedom of the LGBTI community such that they are discouraged from seeking medical attention specific for MSM(Men who have sex with men) at the LGBTI focused or inclusive organisations health centres such as the International Centre Advocacy on the Rights to Health. This is the achieved through the criminalisation of the existence, registration or participation in such organisations. This deters the LGBTI community from seeking adequate medical attention. This greatly affects the HIV positive fraction of the LGBTI community and is a threat to the life expectancy of both the members of the community and those who though not members are connected with the HIV positive members such as their spouses or heterosexual partners. In other words, The Act aids the spread of the HIV virus as it attacks the accessibility and continuity of adequate treatment.
The Act unjustly restricts and denies members of the LGBTI community their freedom of expression of same-sex loving relationships ‘directly and indirectly’ publicly. It also unjustly restricts and denies them freedom of expression and association even when done in private and affects or challenges the public safety, order and morality in no way. This it does by criminalising the existence and registration of LGBTI focused or inclusive organisations, clubs and societies. The Act further criminalises same-sex relationships, marriages and co-habitation arrangements between same-sex loving couples.
This is more so as The Act criminalises the staff, sponsors and volunteers of LGBTI focused or inclusive organisation. The Act is a limitation on the career choices and employment opportunities of medical and Para-medical experts who are interested in delivering efficient and effective MSM health services.
3.1The positive effects of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013
3.1.1.Provoked visibility of the LGBTI community
In response to the increasing rate of violence and human rights violation targeted towards the LGBTI community, most of the LGBTI community have gone underground in fear and extreme caution. However, a few members of the Nigerian LGBTI community have been provoked to openly and voluntarily acknowledge their sexual orientations or gender identity. Prominent instances include but are not limited to:
i. Kenny Bademosi: through his autobiography Exodus
ii. Seun Idris: on Facebook and the ‘Letters to My Africa’ blog
iii. Seyi Adebanjo
1.1. Increased audibility of the LGBTI rights activists and groups.
The emergence and implementation of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act has gingered the increased participation of local and international non-governmental organisations, groups and individuals in the fight against LGBTI rights violations. Some of them include, but are not limited to:
a. Changing Attitudes Nigeria
b. Queer Alliance Nigeria
c. The Initiative for Equal Rights
d. International Centre for the Advocacy on Rights to Health
e. Advocate for Grass root Empowerment
f. Access to Good Health Initiative
g. Improved Sexual Health and Rights Advocacy Initiative
h. International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights
i. The Bisi Alimi Foundation
j. Michael Daemon (a pseudonym) hosting the first Nigerian LGBTI weekly podcast on http://www.nostringspodcast.com .
k. Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie through her short stories.

1.2. Increased attention focused on the LGBTI rights conversation.
Owing to the enactment of the Act, increased violations and the increased activities of LGBTI rights activists and allies, LGBTI issues and concerns are constantly in the Nigerian news, online social media, sermons and discussions in places of worship, schools and public places.

In as much there has been more opportunity to air homophobic arguments and prejudice, there has also been greater opportunity to challenge homophobia, prejudice and preach the gospel of inclusion and accommodation. In this light, there has been increased social media activism and a gradual- though still not substantial- paradigm shift amongst the non-members of the LGBTI community towards inclusion.

2.0. The Human Rights structure available
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(As amended) provides in its Chapter IV for the regard of the preservation and protection of fundamental rights. The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights has been ratified and enacted into a local legislation as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Ratification and Enforcement Act. Fundamental Rights claims are theoretically given special preference by virtue of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure 1999 and certain celebrated local cases such as Garba v. University of Maiduguri to the effect that:
a. The fundamental rights enforcement cases can be brought before both the Federal High Court and State High Courts(both of which ordinarily have original and appellate jurisdiction for specific cases, parties and subject matter);
b. Fundamental Rights enforcement cases are granted speedy hearing;
c. Fundamental Rights enforcement cases cannot be struck out for want of locus standi of party bringing the suit;
d. Public interest litigation in encouraged;
e. The provisions and rights conferred under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights have the force of law as though constitutionally provided for.
f. Recently, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 was enacted, and thus criminalising all forms of unjust violence and violation of human rights.
Given that Nigeria has domesticated the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, it is expected that the standards of the Africa human rights system are equally integrated into the formulations and implementations of Nigerian laws and policies.
3.0. Challenges to the human rights structure available

In spite of all the above established structures and theories of the Nigerian legal and human rights system, certain factors challenge the system’s ability to combat homophobia. These are:
1. Lack of implementation and flagrant disregard of constitutional human rights standards and domesticated international human rights treaties, by the local judicial systems.
2. The dependence of the judiciary on the executive for remuneration thus reducing the chances of any revolutionary judicial precedent challenging homophobia anytime soon.
3. Homophobic attitudes and prejudice promoted, sustained and protected amongst the different arms of government.
4. Undue delay in delivery of human rights judgments.
5. Unchallenged negative attitudes, prejudice and violence directed at the LGBTI in communities, work places, worship place and other public places.
6. Homophobic statements and hate speech made by public officers and leaders in all spheres of the society.

4.0. Recommendations
1. Repeal of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013 to withdraw the legitimacy status from homophobia;
2. Amendment of the Penal Code and Criminal Code decriminalising voluntary homosexual acts and consensual same-sex relationships;
3. Further collaboration amongst LGBTI inclusive and focused organisations.
4. Individual freewill donations and sponsorships of LGBTI inclusive and focused organisations.
5. Intensive social media LGBTI rights activism.
6. Open and diplomatic confrontation of prejudice and homophobia.
5.0. Conclusion
It is 2016, there are still the likelihood of further violation. However, there are more hands on deck ameliorating the situation and building capacity to do so effectively than there were in 2014 when the Act was freshly enacted. Watching these play out: the struggle, and the gradual victory, there is hope, real hope. I see light ahead. It is like watching soft flesh harden.

 

(Originally submitted by David Nnanna Ikpo as his Country Report project to the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, February 2016 )

Sustainable Development and the LGBTI Community

Dear Africa,
You would think that my pen got dry because I seemed distracted for a while. It did not.

Camera 360
Nnanna Ikpo

I was simply at some distance handling quite a few things that some how drew me away from my routine, books and regular considerations. I have been living a little. I can not say I’m totally back now. Things promise to get a whole lot busier as 2016 advances.

However, I am writing to you today to discuss the widespread international goals of sustainable development. especially as it concerns the LGBTIA community. How so?
Look, Africa, everyone now is talking about equality, preservation of rights and openness- me inclusive. Even last year, 2015, the Human Rights Day was themed Our Rights, Our Freedoms, Always. And it particularly was considering the human freedom of speech, religion, from want and fear. In the face of all these, we still have the razmataz of politics, corruption, religion and all other facets of our lives splashing up on our shores and there is so much to consider. But this particular one bothers me today. So here goes…
Everyone generally deems sustainable development to mean progress that does not exhaust the future before it happens. One that regards everyone and everything, and above all the natural balance of continuity, and the guard against spending the world so much that it becomes uninhabitable. I believe that this balance, in all its beauty, should carry everyone along.
A few hours ago, I was in a heated argument concerning Empire’s Hakeem character and the propriety of his dating an older woman in Empire Season 1, and then how much better Jamal’s character has become in Season 2 because he seems to be in a romantic relationship with a girl. Of course, such arguments on Nigerian land would only go in a certain line: ‘Hakeem, if he were my son would probably receive the biggest face slamming of his life on my hearing of it…and as for Jamal, the powerful girl has finally cast the evil gay spirit out of him.’ Then when someone begins to say that Africa should move beyond ineffective and unrealistic traditions, everyone begins to stare as though I am bathing in okro soup. Now you can imagine the next question…’So that means you support the gay rubbish abi?’
For Christ sake, if we continue to have the mindset that it is up to us to pin everyone else down unjustly to secure the long destroyed balance, we will end up not accomplishing anything at all.
Nobody wants to admit that there is a limit to what a people can take. Nobody wants to admit homophobia only destroys and disinherits us of our children, our friends, our future and the development that should return, grow, and continue. When we continue endorsing structures that mentally, physically and spiritually murders the creativity, education, freedom and equality of the members of the LGBTIA community and everyone else in the society, we set our own roofs on fire without knowing- or perhaps smelling the flames but presuming that it is the roasting ‘isi-ewu’ outside.
To move from here, we need  everyone on board. This why God has made all of this a reality. We need to preserve our own. This is of course knowing and implementing that more effort and attention need be paid to the LGBTIA community, making up for the gross inhumanity and destructions of the past.
There  really is no development without the members of the LGBTIA community, because, if nature were to instantly retrieve them, the whole world would fall like a house of playing cards, completely. Think about this.
Africa, look around, listen closely. There is a Rainbow Talk going on every where. Inclusion ,. protection, freedom and progress of the LGBTIA community will happen whether or not you validate it. Your children are reading, thinking, learning. Your neighbours are reading, listening and learning too. Above all, God is here, and his love and validation is bigger and brighter than yours is or will ever be.
I love you. I hope you read. I hope you learn.
Warm regards,
Nnanna

The fight against homophobia in Africa must be an agenda led by Africans, for Africans

Until the arrival of homophobic colonials, many places in Africa shared a tacit acceptance of gay relations so long as they took place before or alongside marriage, which retained a particular focus on childbearing and the importance of lineage.  In fact, what we might describe as lesbian interaction was often not even considered sexual, as no penis was involved, and took place between women frequently and without question. This still goes on in some places on the African continent, although the influence of Western ideas, particularly homophobia and our distinctly European binary view of sex, is changing that.

Colonial settlers and missionaries were horrified by what they saw when they arrived on Africa’s shores; of polygamy, same-sex relations and often matriarchal societies. They immediately set about ‘civilising’ the locals, by introducing strictly patriarchal structures, new Christian ideas about sex and gender, and an ugly, pervasive view of same-sex relations; industrial-size homophobia was brought to the continent.

Fast forward to the present day and the West has experienced a dramatic sexual revolution. First of all, the contraceptive pill, female emancipation, gender equality legislation and the blossoming of individualism all created an environment where sexual choices are those for the individual and the Victorian obsession with conservative sexual morals has come (almost) to an end. The last legal stalwart of this prudishness was anti-homosexuality legislation, discriminatory laws dropping like flies so that now, most Western countries can boast that gay people have full equal rights under the law, including the right to marry, have children, serve in the military and live lives free from discrimination. There is still a long way to go until social equality catches up with the law, but a major obstacle has been bulldozed in achieving this ultimate goal.

But the world had not yet shared in this social revolution. We, the British, should feel particularly ashamed of the colonial legacy of homophobia that we left behind – ex-British colonies are significantly more likely to have laws criminalising homosexuality than countries that were colonised by other European powers, or not colonised at all. It would be simplistic and incorrect to suggest that homophobia didn’t exist in Africa until the arrival of colonial powers, but we certainly reinforced it and turned it into a legal and social nightmare. And we shouldn’t forget that our change in position on this issue is an extremely recent one, only three decades ago, European governments including Britain were defending homophobic legislation in the European Court of Human Rights arguing that they had the “legitimate aim” of the “protection of morals”, based on religion and centuries-old moral standards. Many African countries are currently experience a fresh wave of homophobia, from new criminalising laws including the horrifying threat of the death penalty, to public crackdowns on homosexual behaviour, free speech violations and harassment. Shrewd politicians have sought to capitalise on dangerous public sentiment for easy political gains, with a homophobic media lapping it up, and sometimes even baying for blood. Even more worryingly, reports suggest that wealthy evangelical Christian churches from America, having lost their battle with homosexuality at home, are increasingly turning to the African continent to peddle their hate-filled brand of religious belief.

Attempts to influence these African nations to drop homophobia legislation has proved challenging, and understandably so; the response often boils down to claims that homosexuality is a Western invention with no place on the African continent, and attempts to prevent homophobic discrimination are colonial influence that has no place in the modern world. It is essential that we recognised that the majority African view of homosexuality is not just one that we held until extremely recently, but one that we specifically imported and cultivated there. At the same time, we cannot simply dismiss the problem as none of our business, while human rights abuses continue and people are suffering. We know that homosexuality is an intrinsic part of the human condition, not a culturally-specific phenomenon. But our approach must be sensitive, it must not be preachy; we must tread carefully when tackling the endemic homophobia we are largely responsible for. So what is the right approach?

First, we must seek to understand the complex and often unwritten rule of customary law, and appreciate the different attitudes toward sex that cross Africa, and can vary dramatically even in relatively small areas. We cannot combat homophobia with Western conceptions of sex that are confusing and alien to those on the ground. And to appreciate the role we can play, we must first challenge our own pervasive prejudices of a homogenous Africa inhabited by the savage and simple-minded – nothing could be further from the truth. We must begin by taking Africa seriously, and treating Africans as equals with their own views and voices, instead of simply assuming we can boss them around.

In the past, Western donors have threatened to cut development aid (and in some cases actually have), but this is the wrong approach. People do not respond well to threats, and threatening aid budgets is emotional blackmail that also will hit the poorest people in African nations the hardest. Threatening counties might make them remove legislation, but it will further entrench views of colonial bullying and do nothing to change hearts and minds on the issue at hand; if anything it may reinforce these views more stubbornly. This approach is also highly hypocritical, considering the lavish support we throw at other nations with an appalling record of human rights abuses against gay people, with Saudi Arabia being a key example.

Instead, we must recognise that there are many Africans fighting homophobia on the ground in their countries; these are the efforts we should be supporting. Aid funding should be channelled to these organisations, and our human rights organisations and foreign offices should keep tabs on them so they are at least somewhat protected from both legal and physical harassment. We are also ignoring high level African voices against homophobia that challenge the perception of defence of homosexuality as ‘unAfrican’; the South African Human Rights Commission, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, are some such voices that must be heard. For it to succeed, the fight against homophobia on African soil must be an agenda led by Africans, based on African, not Western, values.

Homophobia in Africa is a growing problem, and we must recognise that it will be a long and difficult road towards achieving the same level of equality and acceptance that we have here in the UK, even when we also have so far to go. But a ham-fisted approach that involves neo-colonial bullying and ill-considered pressure will only make the situation worse. Combating homophobia in Africa requires patience and a grass-roots approach, so that the vital voices of African activists take precedence over our own.

(Sourced from https://developmentandhumanrights.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/the-fight-against-homophobia-in-africa-must-be-an-agenda-led-by-africans-for-africans/ )

Independence Day Speech by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari

October 1st is a day for joy and celebrations for us Nigerians, whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in because it is the day, 55 years ago; we liberated ourselves from the shackles of colonialism and began our long march to nationhood and to greatness.

No temporary problems or passing challenges should stop us from honouring this day. Let us remind ourselves of the gifts God has given us. Our Creator has bequeathed to us Numbers – Nigeria is the ninth most populated country on the planet. We have in addition arable land; water; forests; oil and gas; coastline; and solid minerals

We have all the attributes of a great nation. We are not there yet because the one important commodity we have been unable to exploit to the fullest is unity of purpose. This would have enabled us to achieve not only more orderly political evolution and integration but also continuity and economic progress.

Countries far less endowed have made greater economic progress by greater coherence and unity of purpose.

Nonetheless, that we have remained together is an achievement we should all appreciate and try to consolidate. We have witnessed this year a change in our democratic development.

The fact that an opposition party replaced an entrenched government in a free and fair election is indicative of the deeper roots of our democratic system. Whatever one’s views are, Nigerians must thank former President Jonathan for not digging-in in the face of defeat and thereby saving the country untold consequences.

As I said in my inaugural speech, I bear no ill will against anyone on past events. Nobody should fear anything from me. We are not after anyone. People should only fear the consequences of their actions. I hereby invite everyone, whatever his or her political view to join me in working for the nation.

My countrymen and women, every new government inherits problems. Ours was no different. But what Nigerians want are solutions, quick solutions not a recitation of problems inherited.

Accordingly, after consultations with the Vice President, senior party leaders and other senior stakeholders, I quickly got down to work on the immediate, medium-term and long-term problems which we must solve if we are to maintain the confidence which Nigerians so generously bestowed on us in the March elections.

And since then, as you know, I toured the neighbouring countries, marshalled a coalition of armed forces of the five nations to confront and defeat Boko Haram. I met also the G-7 leaders and other friendly presidents in an effort to build an international coalition against Boko Haram.

Our gallant armed forces under new leadership have taken the battle to the insurgents, and severely weakened their logistical and infrastructural capabilities. Boko Haram are being scattered and are on the run.

That they are resorting to shameless attacks on soft targets such as I.D.P. camps is indicative of their cowardice and desperation. I have instructed security and local authorities to tighten vigilance in vulnerable places. On power, government officials have held a series of long sessions over several weeks about the best way to improve the nation’s power supply in the safest and most cost-effective way.

In the meantime, improvement in the power situation is moderately encouraging. By the same token, supply of petrol and kerosene to the public has improved throughout the country. All the early signs are that within months the whole country would begin to feel a change for the better.

Preliminary steps have been taken to sanitize NNPC and improve its operations so that the inefficiency and corruption could be reduced to a minimum.

Those of our refineries which can be serviced and brought back into partial production would be enabled to resume operations so that the whole sordid business of exporting crude and importing finished products in dubious transactions could be stopped.

In addition to NNPC, I have ordered a complete audit of our other revenue generating agencies mainly CBN, FIRS, Customs, NCC, for better service delivery to the nation.

Prudent house-keeping is needed now more than ever in view of the sharp decline in world market oil prices. It is a challenge we have to face squarely. But what counts is not so much what accrues but how we manage our resources that is important.

We have seen in the last few years how huge resources were mismanaged, squandered and wasted. The new APC government is embarking on a clean up, introducing prudence and probity in public financing.

At an early stage, the federal government addressed the issue of salary arrears in many states, a situation capable of degenerating into social unrest. The APC government stepped in to improve short-term support to the owing states and enabled them to pay off the backlog and restore the livelihood of millions of Nigerians.

Fellow Nigerians, there have been a lot of anxiety and impatience over the apparent delay in announcement of ministers. There is no cause to be anxious. Our government set out to do things methodically and properly. We received the handover notes from the outgoing government only four days before taking over.

Consequently, the Joda Transition Committee submitted its Report on the reorganization of Federal Government structure after studying the handover notes. It would have been haphazard to announce ministers when the government had not finalized the number of ministries to optimally carry the burden of governance.

Anyway, the wait is over. The first set of names for ministerial nominees for confirmation has been sent to the Senate. Subsequent lists will be forwarded in due course. Impatience is not a virtue. Order is more vital than speed. Careful and deliberate decisions after consultations get far better results. And better results for our country is what the APC government for CHANGE is all about.

I would like to end my address this morning on our agenda for CHANGE. Change does not just happen. You and I and all of us must appreciate that we all have our part to play if we want to bring change about. We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust. We must change our unruly behaviour in schools, hospitals, market places, motor parks, on the roads, in homes and offices. To bring about change, we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens.

Happy Independence Celebrations. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria. God bless you all.

(Sourced from http://www.channelstv.com/2015/10/01/full-text-president-buharis-independence-day-speech/ )

Gambia: Two Decade of Fear and Repression (Disband Paramilitary Groups; Investigate Abuses )

Gambia: Two Decades of Fear and Repression
(Washington, DC) – Gambia’s government commits serious human rights violations against perceived critics and political opponents, perpetuating a climate of fear and repression, Human Rights Watch said in a report released
today.

The 81-page report, “State of Fear: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture, and Killings,” describes the human rights situation in Gambia since President Yahya Jammeh took power in 1994 and ruthlessly repressed all forms of dissent. State security forces and shadowy paramilitary groups carry out unlawful killings and arbitrarily arrest, detain, and forcibly disappear people, causing hundreds to flee the tiny country, best known internationally as a tourist destination. Most of the abuses documented in the report are from 2013 to 2015.

Gambia’s government commits serious human rights violations against perceived critics and political opponents, perpetuating a climate of fear and repression.

“Looking beyond Gambia’s beautiful beaches, the population lives in a climate of fear in which injustice prevails and accountability for abuses is beyond reach,” said Felicity Thompson, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The government needs to urgently turn things around by respecting basic rights and prosecuting those who violate them.”

The report is based on in-depth interviews with over 35 victims and witnesses of human rights violations, including journalists, human rights defenders, student leaders, political opposition members, religious leaders, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities. Human Rights Watch also interviewed numerous former members of the security forces and paramilitary groups. Many believed they were under surveillance by the intelligence services, and spoke to Human Rights Watch with palpable fear and at great personal risk.

Gambian security forces frequently arrest people without suspicion or charge, often detaining them secretly for months and even years. Those detained for political reasons, including perceived supporters of the opposition; those who criticize the president or the government; and those implicated in coup attempts, are often subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Most recently, after a coup attempt in December 2014, dozens of people were forcibly disappeared and allegedly tortured.

Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), a paramilitary group known as the “Jungulers,” and armed units of the Gambian Police Force have been most frequently implicated in the abuses, Human Rights Watch said. One former Junguler told Human Rights Watch: “When [Jammeh] wants to torture you, he uses the Jungulers team to torture you. Or if he wants to arrest you secretly, he uses this Jungulers team. Or when he wants to kill you without anyone finding out, they will just kill you and throw you [away].”

Several victims described torture methods that included severe beatings, rape, near suffocation with plastic bags, electroshock of body parts including genitals, and dripping melted plastic bags onto the skin. Victims also described psychological abuse such as prolonged periods in solitary confinement, mock execution, and repeated threats of torture and death. Most victims and witnesses who spoke to Human Rights Watch identified the Jungulers as responsible for the torture, but many reported that intelligence officials were present or complicit in the abuse.

Government oppression of the media has been particularly severe, apparently to silence criticism and suppress negative information about the country to the outside world. Dozens of journalists have fled Gambia in the last two decades. Most recently, the manager of the independent radio station Taranga FM, Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, was detained in July. Ceesay was held incommunicado for 11 days without charge at NIA headquarters and severely tortured. A few days after his release, Ceesay was again detained, charged with several counts of sedition, and denied bail. He remains in detention.

Ceesay was “beaten until he fell unconscious and was forced to drink cooking oil like water on several occasions,” a person who saw him after his release from the NIA told Human Rights Watch. “We saw him, his face full of bruises and his back covered in marks and wounds. He could not walk properly because of the beatings.”

Gambians who identify as LGBT or who are perceived as such are regularly the target of Jammeh’s vitriolic hate speech, discriminatory new laws, and arbitrary detention and mistreatment. In May, Jammeh said at a rally that he would “slit the throats” of gay Gambians – the most recent slur in a long history of anti-gay hate speech. After passage of an “aggravated homosexuality” law in October 2014 imposing a life sentence for a series of new offenses, dozens of LGBT people fled the country.

One man who fled Gambia in 2015 after being acquitted of “unnatural acts” said he was repeatedly tortured while in NIA detention. “I was beaten with a club and fists,” he told Human Rights Watch. “They threatened me with death if I didn’t provide names of other homosexuals in Gambia.”

Despite the rampant human rights abuses in Gambia, authorities have conducted few investigations into allegations of torture or ill-treatment by state officials, and no government officials, security services personnel, or paramilitary groups have been held to account for serious violations.

In July, on the anniversary of the 1994 coup that brought him to power, Jammeh pardoned and released over 200 prisoners, including political prisoners and family members of those accused in the 2014 coup attempt. The release of unlawfully or arbitrarily detained prisoners is an important humanitarian gesture, but many more Gambians wrongfully remain behind bars.

International donors and other governments should consistently and publicly condemn human rights violations in Gambia, raise concerns with government officials at all levels, and press for accountability for abuses by state security forces, Human Rights Watch said.

“The recent releases of political prisoners will hopefully lead to further positive steps by the Gambian government, including disbanding the dreaded Jungulers, releasing the rest of those wrongly held, and prosecuting rights abusers in the security forces,” Thompson said. “So long as security forces and paramilitary groups act with impunity, Gambians will suffer.”

(Sourced from http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/09/17/gambia-two-decades-fear-and-repression)
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