Nigerian Judge Strikes Case Against 47 Men Charged with Same-Sex Relationships

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 27, 2020

On Tuesday, a Nigerian court judge tossed a case in which 47 men were "charged with public displays of affection with members of the same sex," NBC News reports.

The accused were arrested at a hotel in Lagos in 2018, where police say they were "being initiated into a gay club." The men countered that they were attending a birthday party.

The case having been struck — though not dismissed entirely — is seen as a challenge to the country's law banning same-sex relationships, which is punishable with up to 14 years imprisonment. Because nobody had been convicted under Nigeria's 2014 law banning same-sex marriage and same-sex "amorous relationships," the case against these men was "widely seen as a test case that could help to establish burden of proof."

The judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, threw out the case because of "lock of diligent prosecution" — prosecutors did not attend Tuesday's hearing, and they had previously failed to produce witnesses in their case against the defendants. As NBC states, "the specific charge the men faced, relating to public displays of affection, carries a 10-year prison sentence." But because the case was only struck and not dismissed entirely, under Nigerian, the defendants can be re-arrested and "arraigned again on the same charges."

Two of the men, Onyeka Oguaghamba and Chris Agiriga, said that a dismissal would have helped them because they have been stigmatized and faced family rejection since the arrest. Emmanuel Said, program officer with Initiative for Equal Rights, said that because the case was stricken, it raises questions about the law under which the men were charged. "You can't even build a case around it. I hope they (the government) realize how redundant it is as a law, and they are open to removing or repealing it."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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