LGBT protest - OkayAfrica

NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2018/06/20: Nigerian LGBTQ Collective taking part at the Pride March in New York City. Thousands took part in the annual Pride March in New York City to promote LGBT right.

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Nigerian Judge Releases 47 Men Accused of Homosexuality Following Two-Year Case

Nigerian Judge Rilwan Aikawa has 'struck-out' a two-year long controversial case against 47 men who were accused of homosexuality following 'public displays of affection towards other men'.

According to Al Jazeera, Nigerian Judge Rilwan Aikawa has dismissed a controversial two-year long case of 47 men accused of homosexuality. This follows the prosecutor's inability to provide sufficient evidence as well as state witnesses. The 47 men were arrested in late 2018 reportedly on their way to a party. They faced charges for "public displays affection of the same-sex". The men who faced up to ten years of incarceration are said to be relieved but it is not all over. According to Nigerian law the case can be reinstated and the accused rearrested.

Read: These Poignant #EndSARS Protest Show the Heart of a United People

The 47 men were reportedly arrested in Lagos during a hotel raid apparently during an initiation into a supposed gay club. All of the accused pleaded their innocence with one Onyeka Oghuaghamba claiming that he was simply a driver for the entourage. Oghuaghamba, father of four children, expressed his relief to the press after the judge announced the dismissal. According to the New York Times, all 47 men have claimed that they have since been stigmatised because of the charges. Furthermore, the trial has also reportedly caused the accused men both financial and emotional distress.

"I am not happy, because I'm looking for the matter to end in a way that people will see me and believe what I have been saying from the beginning," he said to reporters, adding that the decision meant he could be charged again.

Homosexuality is outlawed in most African countries. In 2014, former president of Nigerian Jonathan Goodluck implemented a law that criminalized perceived homosexual behaviour. Nigerians accused of homosexuality were reportedly extorted and blackmailed by police units such as the infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The arbitrary law made it relatively easy for anyone to accuse another person of homosexuality. The banning of homosexual laws seems to be a political chess piece that many African leaders are not willing to lose. Police allegedly paraded the 47 men in public to shame them and make an "example" of them.

Nigeria is reportedly highly homophobic with the country's large population of Christians and Muslims supporting the law when it came out. Nobody has yet to be convicted under the seven-year-old law. The case, it appears, was merely a political sparring by the Nigerian government. The case of the 47 will be reviewed in March next year.