- But LGBT+ Nigerians are fighting back – even the brave victim.
Two homophobic vigilantes have trapped and brutally beaten a gay man to death in Nigeria.
It is an incident like so many others that have happened in the west African country – often attracting no publicity.
But this time there are some important differences. The victim found a way to fight back and protect his friends. The murderers have been filmed, handcuffed, confessing to the attack. And LGBT+ Nigerians have responded with fury – demanding change.
Victim agreed to meet stranger on Facebook and pay for sex
The event happened on 7 March at Nanka, Anambra state, south eastern Nigeria. The victim was also from the same region.
We know many of the details due to a video confession from the alleged murderers, which went viral online.
In it, they say the victim contacted one of the murderers on Facebook and sent him a message. We do not know the names of either the victim or the man who would later kill him.
The victim told him he was gay and asked if he wanted to hook up. The murderer apparently laughed at him but then agreed.
The victim asked him to come to see him in the town of Owerri. But the murderer refused and asked the victim to come to him around Nanka, about 70kms away. The victim agreed to pay 20,000 Nigerian Naira (about $54) for sex.
What the victim didn’t know is that his hook-up had contacted a friend, called Chidi Omeh. Together he and Omeh planned to rob the victim and beat him up.
The victim crushed his sim card in his mouth to protect others
When the victim arrived the first murderer asked for the money. The victim said he’ll get the money after sex. So Omeh and his friend started beating him.
But the brave victim fought back. Often blackmailers use gay people’s phones to identify further victims or to humiliate them in front of their parents.
However the victim managed to take out his sim card and put it in his mouth and crushed it to bits to destroy his contacts. He also smashed up his phone.
The two murderers then overpowered him, took him to a secluded spot and killed him. People later found his body decomposing.
The men later confessed in a video shot on a mobile phone.
This photo labels one of the men as a ‘kito’ – a Nigerian word for people who set up, beat, extort and kill gay people in Nigeria. The alleged weapon looks like a sword but is apparently a club.
‘Sick, bitter and frustrated’
In response, LGBT+ Nigerians have demanded change. They started the hashtag #EndHomophobiaInNigeria which has been trending as number two on Twitter for the last two days in Nigeria.
Young Nigerian LGBT+ activist Matthew Blaise, 20, came up with the hashtag with his friends Ani Kayode and Victor Eze.
He told GSN: ‘The murder made me so sick, bitter and frustrated. Coupled with the numerous inhumane treatments of gay people in Nigeria – extortion, illegal parading, harassment, assaults, conversion therapy, killings and the damn Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act which is the enabler of them all.’
That act came into force in 2014, when former President Goodluck Jonathan signed it.
It not only bans same-sex marriage but also gives 10-year prison terms on ‘any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes a public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria’.
Moreover Nigeria punishes homosexuality with 14 years in prison in most of the country and the death penalty in northern, Sharia law states.
‘I almost got killed or viciously assaulted just last week’
The hashtag has also allowed other LGBT+ Nigerians to share their stories and anger.
Talking about the video confession, ‘Kay’ said:
‘I cried listening to this because of the times I was attacked and I really thought I was going to die. I don’t understand why we have to live like this, always a [phone] interaction away from walking straight into our deaths.’
And Ethan Regal commented: ‘When I moved back to Nigeria, the very first gay friend I made was murdered in a hotel by a man who lured him there for sex.
‘Another friend visited someone and was held there for weeks and beaten by a gang. This crap has gone on for years and needs to stop.’
Meanwhile ‘Wild One’ said: ‘I was raped and robbed because I am gay. I couldn’t report or get any form of justice because reporting would most likely endanger my life more.’
And ‘Goofy’ shared his story: ‘I almost got killed or viciously assaulted just last week. And this is just a tip of what queer people face in Nigeria everyday.’
‘Selfish, homophobic and misogynistic men as our leaders’
The hashtag has been another vital moment for LGBT+ Nigerians in raising the profile of the hate and injustice they face.
But despite its success, Blaise doesn’t believe change will come quickly.
Indeed, he and his fellow activists are nervous that these killers may not face a fair trial and punishment. Often, police release people who attack LGBT+ victims. Moreover, police are often guilty of extortion and beatings themselves.
Talking about the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, Blaise told GSN:
‘I don’t think the bill will be repealed soon. Because we have selfish, homophobic and misogynistic men as our leaders in Nigeria.
‘But it is important for awareness to be raised about it. It is important for people to know how homophobia is harming gay people everyday. And it is also important to let them know how the SSMPA enables that.’