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Mass arrest in Nigeria over alleged same-sex wedding ceremony

Homosexuality is strictly illegal in Nigeria, with same-sex relations punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

By Dale Fox

Composite of a police officer talking to reporters and a group of people talking to reporters with their faces blurred out
Around 100 people have been arrested following an alleged same-sex wedding in Nigeria (Image: Delta State Command/Facebook)

Nigerian police have raided an alleged gay wedding ceremony, reportedly arresting 67 people on charges related to homosexuality.

The mass arrest occurred early Monday morning (28 August) in a hotel in the city of Ekpan in the southern Delta state, according to police statements. Initial reports indicated over 100 attendees were detained, though police confirmed 67 had been arrested.

Homosexuality is strictly illegal in Nigeria, with same-sex relations punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Attending, aiding, or abetting a gay wedding can also result in up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

A police spokesperson condemned the event during a news conference on Tuesday. He stated: “We are in Africa and we are in Nigeria. We cannot copy the Western world, because we don’t have the same culture.”

He added that “Delta state is no place for any sort of same-sex relationship.”

Police also posted alleged video evidence of a wedding ceremony between two men. They also claim to have seized illegal drugs from the scene. Some attendees have denied it was a gay wedding, asserting it was a fashion show or modelling event.

After detaining the group, police live-streamed a “parade” of the alleged attendees on Facebook, showing journalists interviewing several of them, seemingly under duress.

“Witch-hunt” against the LGBTQ+ community

Human rights organisations have denounced the mass arrest, with Amnesty International Nigeria calling it a “witch-hunt” against the LGBTQ+ community. Discrimination and violence against gay people remain common in Nigeria, despite efforts to promote equality.

This police raid follows a similar 2018 incident in Lagos, where nearly 60 men were detained from a hotel party but later released. And this week, a man in Uganda was charged with “aggravated homosexuality,” an offence that could see him get the death penalty.

While most African countries still ban homosexuality, a handful like South Africa and Angola have moved to decriminalise same-sex relationships. However, Nigeria maintains strict laws against any expression of LGBTQ+ identities.

As the investigation in Delta state continues, the detained individuals are expected to be formally charged this week.

“We are still investigating and we want to assure Deltans and Nigerians that they will be charged to court soonest upon completion of the investigation,” local police said during the Facebook live-stream.