More than 60 people arrested at gay wedding in Nigeria

ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigerian police said Tuesday they had detained at least 67 people celebrating a gay wedding in one of the largest mass arrests against homosexuality, which is banned in the West African country.

The “homosexual suspects” were arrested in the city of Ekpan, in the southern state of Delta, around 2 a.m. Monday at an event where two of them got married, the state police spokesman told reporters, Bright Edafé.

He said homosexuality “will never be tolerated” in Nigeria.

Arrests of homosexuals are common in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where homosexuals can face up to 14 years in prison under the Same-Sex Marriage Ban Act. The accomplices face 10 years in prison.

Enacted in 2013, the law has been condemned locally and internationally, although it is also supported by many in the country.

Amnesty International’s Nigeria office condemned the arrests and called for “an immediate end to this witch hunt.”

Delta State Police Command arrested 67 gay suspects at a hotel on 8/28/2023. They were at an allegedly gay wedding ceremony between Daniel Pius ‘m’ (groom) and Maxwell Ohwonowho (bride) at the Teebulus Hotel along the Ekpan refinery road. I paraded them today at the Ekpan police station.

— DSP Bright Edafe PPRO DELTA STATE (@Brightgoldenboy) August 29, 2023

“In a society where corruption is rampant, this (same-sex) law that prohibits same-sex relationships is increasingly being used to harass, extort and blackmail people,” he told The Associated Press Isa Sanusi, director of the organization in Nigeria.

Delta police stormed a hotel in Ekpan where the gay wedding was taking place and initially arrested 200 people, Edafe told reporters. Later, 67 of them were detained after initial investigations, she said.

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He spoke at a police station where suspects were paraded.

Police in southern Nigeria have arrested more than 60 people attending a gay wedding. Twitter/@brightgoldenboy

“What was surprising was that we saw two suspects, and there is a video recording where they were having their wedding ceremony,” he said. “We are in Africa and we are in Nigeria. We cannot copy the western world because we do not have the same culture”.

He reiterated that Nigerian police officers “cannot fold their hands” and watch gay people openly express their sexual orientation in the country.

“This is not something that will be allowed in Nigeria,” he said, adding that the suspects will be charged in court at the end of the investigation.

Delta State Police spokesman Bright Edafe told reporters that homosexuality will “never be tolerated” in Nigeria. Twitter/@brightgoldenboy

In a live broadcast of the parade of the suspects carried out by the police, one of the arrested said that he was not attending the wedding ceremony and was at the hotel for another engagement.

Another suspect said he does not identify as gay and was arrested while on his way to a fashion show.

“On the way to the event, the police attacked me and took me to the police station,” he said. “They said that I had committed a crime dressed like that, but I don’t know if cross-dressing is against the country’s constitution.”

In the past, activists have accused Nigerian police of using the same-sex ban law to carry out mass arrests that sometimes include straight people, including in 2017, when more than 40 people were arrested for allegedly to be homosexual

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Nigeria is one of a growing list of African countries that have enacted laws criminalizing same-sex relationships; the latest of these is Uganda, whose recently signed law carries the death penalty in some cases.

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