Legal challenge of anti-gay law gives gay Nigerians 'hope'
A lawyer is suing the Nigerian government over an anti-gay bill which, if passed, would put LGBT people at risk of violence and arrest.
Robert Igbinedion has filed a law-suit against the African country's president and attorney general at the Federal High Court in Lagos, claiming the Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill violates Nigeria's constitution.
The bill, which has been approved by the Senate and is currently being discussed in the House of Representatives, punishes those in a same-sex partnership with 14 years’ imprisonment and anyone ‘aiding or abetting’ such unions with 10 years in prison.
The law, which has been condemned by the international community, including the EU, would also ban gay organizations or clubs and same-sex public displays of affection could land offenders 10 years in jail.
'All over Nigeria, the accepted norm now is as long as the majority is happy, the minority can go to hell and that is the direction we are running into at jet speed. That is not a direction a government should go,' Mr Igbinedion told the Premium Times.
'The essence for which government is established is to protect minorities.'
Davis Mac-Iyalla, Nigerian gay exile living in the UK, said Mr Igbinedion's legal challenge gives LGBT people in the country 'hope'.
'We don't have lawyers in Nigeria that are interested to challenge the government over its oppression of minorities,' he told Gay Star News.
'This is a big eye-opener and has shown that even in Nigeria you can find human rights disciples.
'This is a local person showing us that there is a way around the law. It has shown that there is hope. This lawyer is really very brave.'
Mr Igbinedion's case will be heard at the Justice Tsoho court in Ilkoyi on 4 May.
He says he will fight the bill because Nigerian law permits it.
'Chapter 4 of our constitution says you cannot discriminate,' Mr Igbinedion said.
'And the fundamental rights enforcement procedure rules have given us a clear direction in interpreting our Chapter 4. It says you must look to the UN’s decision and the UN’s decision has recognized the rights of LGBT people as fundamental rights.'