By: Sainabou Gassama
On Monday, August 28, 2023, over 200 individuals were arrested at an alleged gay wedding celebration in Nigeria’s Southern Delta State. Among them, sixty-nine have been prosecuted for their alleged involvement in conducting and attending a same-sex wedding ceremony. This incident marks one of the largest mass arrests in recent years targeting the LGBTQ community in Nigeria.
Similar to many other African countries, same-sex relationships are criminalized in Nigeria. The penal code of the country stipulates lengthy prison sentences of up to 10 to 14 years for those convicted of witnessing or entering into same-sex civil unions.
Ochuko Ohimor, legal counsel for the 69 suspects, confirmed to CNN after a bail hearing on Tuesday that a Nigerian court has granted bail to over 60 individuals who were detained during a police raid at the suspected gay wedding. They are expected to be released this week upon meeting their bail conditions.
“They have been officially granted bail by the court under reasonable terms,” he stated. “All of them should be out this week. They need a surety who can demonstrate their income and must be a resident within the judicial division. The surety should have an annual income of at least one million naira ($1,290),” he added.
Ohimor explained that the suspects, ranging in age from 16 to 40 years, were not present in court during the bail hearing. He further noted that the court would reconvene at a later date for additional hearings on the matter. “Their bail request was granted by the Delta State High Court,” he affirmed.
A police official characterized the alleged gay wedding as “evil” and emphasized that Nigeria should not emulate the Western world. “We are Nigerians, and we must uphold our country’s culture,” the official stressed.
However, Ohimor told CNN that he has faced “serious criticism” for defending the suspects. “I have been subjected to scandalous accusations,” he added. “Some claim I’m a gay lawyer, which is why I’m defending them. People look at me with disgust for standing up for them,” he asserted.