President Goodluck Jonathan has not yet been sent the bill for signature, activists believe, and could delay it further
Nigeria’s ‘Jail All the Gays Bill’ may still not have been passed to President Goodluck Jonathan for his signature, giving extra time to lobby against it.
The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill was passed by parliament on 18 December.
It adds to the country’s criminalization of homosexuality, which already sees harsh jail penalties and the death penalty in northern states.
Now only President Jonathan can stop it – and one activist says he is no homophobe and predicts he will refer it to the National Human Rights Commission.
Others, however, say he will be forced to sign as his popularity is collapsing and he needs to be reselected to fight the presidential election in 2015.
If it becomes law, the bill will ban same-sex marriage and outlaw anyone from forming organizations supporting LGBTI rights.
Nigerian LGBTI activists have confirmed any gay couple who marries would be punished by up to 14 years prison. Wedding guests will also be jailed for 10 years.
Anyone who provides services to a gay person will also be imprisoned for up to five years.
Olumide Makanjuola, director of Initiative for Equal Rights, said the slow Nigerian bureaucracy and Christmas holidays have probably delayed the process.
He told GSN: ‘I am very sure it has not been sent to the president yet.
‘Once it goes to the president he has 30 days to sign or send it back to the house.’
Jonathan can reject the bill or make recommendations for it to be changed.
If he proposes amendments, the inevitable debate between him, the Senate and House of Representatives could delay the bill becoming law until the elections.
If he doesn’t sign the senate and the house can vote it through again with a 2/3rds majority to make it law.
Makanjuola said: ‘On 7 January they resume work. We only have until 7 January to put together any plans. We are going to focus our strategy on the presidency.’
Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian LGBTI now resident in Britain, said: ‘We have an election next year. They are threatening to use his refusal to sign the bill against him.
‘His party has become very, very unpopular. The fear he has is he might use this to regain popularity. But so far he has not said anything about it.
‘He is afraid of the west. He knows he is losing his power at home. America, Canada and the UK are putting pressure on him not to sign. He doesn’t want to lose his western partners but he wants to win the election at home.’
Alimi said he may also be concerned about the negative impact of the bill on the country’s HIV problem.
And Davis Mac-Iyalla, another Nigerian LGBTI activist based in the UK, who knows Jonathan, says as a Christian he will face pressure from the Anglican Church to sign.
But he added: ‘The president of Nigeria will not rush to sign the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill because he is not homophobic.
‘What I can tell you is that the president does not want to be seen as a human rights abuser and is not going to position himself in a bad light with the international community.
‘He will carefully study the bill and send it back to parliament for clarification at which time the bill might run out of parliamentary time again.’
Jonathan has fallen out with his mentor, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has accused him of ‘incompetence, engaging in anti-party activities, ethnicism and training about 1,000 snipers ahead of the 2015 polls’ according to Vanguard news.
This is significant because the bill was originated in 2006 under Obasanjo and because Jonathan has looked to the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the allegations against him.
Mac-Iyalla, like others, believes he will ask that commission for advice when he is sent the bill.
He said: ‘I am optimistic there is hope but sad there is no debate or LGBT voices from home and abroad challenging the bill.’