Last edited: February 18, 2005

Escape of Gay Couple Leads to Gov’t Inquiry, February 18, 2005

By Mark Levy, Cape Town, South Africa Bureau

LAGOS, NIGERIA—The Nigerian government Thursday launch an inquiry into the disappearance from police custody of two gay men charged under the country’s “crimes against nature” law.

The two men were arrested January 15 after neighbors reported them to police.

When officers arrived at the home the men, identified as Ogudu Emmanuel and Odjegba Tevin, volunteered that were lovers. They were taken to the Rumuokoro Police Station for further questioning.

Homosexuality is punishable by a mandatory 14 year sentence. In Northern Nigeria where the strict Sharia Code of Justice is used in twelve Muslim states the punishment punishment is death by stoning.

Following their arrest the couple was held in jail awaiting trial. This week, they disappeared from custody. Police say they do no know what happened to the men but say “it appears” they escaped.

Some gay rights activists fear they may have been killed in jail, either by other inmates or by police. But, that possibility is not being explored by the government inquiry.

It is operating on the belief that an unnamed official may have let the men go.

Homosexuality is one of the country’s most serious “crimes”. The inquiry is trying to determine if there is a “homosexual cabal” working in the police system.

Earlier this month the government attempted to prevent an AIDS outreach program aimed at gays from taking part the fourth national conference on AIDS in Abuja

Last November an Islamic court issued an arrest warrant for a middle-aged man accused of having gay sex. If caught and convicted the Sharia court in Keffi could sentence him to death by stoning.

The warrant was issued for Michael Ifediora Nwokoma after neighbors alleged he was gay and was having sex with with another man. That person was identified in the Nigerian media as a local businessman named Mallam Abdullahi Ibrahim.

Ibrahim was charged but Nwokoma escaped before police could arrest him.

Nigerian Anglicans are leading the threats of breaking away from the worldwide Church over the election of a gay bishop in the US. Almost half of the world’s Anglicans are in Nigeria.

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