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
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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