A Federal High Court judge has thrown out a controversial case which had been brought against 57 men charged with public displays of affection with members of the same sex.
Following several adjournments, Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Lagos High Court on Tuesday, struck out the case and said he had done so because of a “lack of diligent prosecution”.
In a statement issued by Tiers , the Initiative for equal rights, Nigeria, a frontline NGO that provided defence for the the accused in court, reads, “While this is good news that the men no longer have to show up in court repeatedly to defend this charge, we are disappointed that the case has been struck out instead of being dismissed”.
The men were first arrested in a police raid on a hotel in the commercial hub of Lagos in 2018 after officers claimed they were being “initiated into a gay club”, but the defendants said they were just attending a birthday party.
According to Tiers, “a dismissal means that the individuals are free of all charges and the case can’t be brought up again in any court of law. However, a strike out means that they are free to go away now, but the police can arrest them again anytime in the future on these same charges”.
“Since it was found that the Prosecution lacks evidence for the crimes alleged, the proper order should have been a dismissal. As it stands now, we see that the justice system has again failed to mete out justice,” the statement concluded.
This judgement is considered to be a landmark case as it is the first ever since a 2014 law introduced under Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan, which bans gay marriage as well as public displays of affection between people of the same sex. The law carries a possible prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Nigeria face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents.
The Nigerian state does not allow or recognise LGBT rights. There is no legal protection against discrimination in Nigeria— LGBTQ Nigerians are fleeing to countries with progressive law to seek protection.
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