Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Nigerian LGBTI rights activist at the African Commission

In January 2014, the then Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law. The Act is a federal legislation which widely and thoroughly criminalises all forms of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex(LGBTI) expressions and support within Nigeria. This stretches criminal status to cohabitation between consenting homosexual adults, the celebration and registration of same-sex marriages, the existence and sustenance of gay clubs, civil societies, establishments, organisations and all other forms of arrangements that cater for the health, welfare and sustenance of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual- whether or not they are purely LGBTI focused or LGBTI inclusive- amongst others. This includes the staff and volunteers who work at such organisations (whether or not they are part of the LGBTI community).
At 11:00pm on 22nd October 2014, Ifeanyi Orazulike,(LGBTI rights activist, health care worker, social entrepreneur and the Executive Director of International Centre for Advocacy on the Rights to Health(ICARH), a registered Nigerian non-governmental organisation which set up a health clinic in April 2011 in response to LGBTI health care service provision in Abuja, Nigeria. But also attends to HIV issues for members and non-members of the LGBTI community) was arrested, in the course his birthday celebration, at his office in Abuja by 15 armed members of the Nigerian Police Force (without an arrest warrant) on the instruction of the Inspector General of the Police. His guests and staff were driven out of the office premises and he was bundled away in a van, after a thorough search(without a search warrant) of his office and seizure of some office equipment including those donated by the USAID. He was unduly detained, without being told the reason for his arrest.
Ifeanyi Orazulike(photo sourced at )
He instituted an action (with motion number FHC/ABJ/CS/799/2014) under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 at the Federal High Court, Abuja in 2014 to enforce his fundamental rights (dignity of person, personal liberty, freedom of movement, right to peaceful assembly and association )enshrined under Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended), reflecting also in Articles 4,6,12 and 11 respectively of the African Charter for Human and Peoples Rights (which has been domesticated and has the force of a federal enactment as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act)
Unfortunately, the fundamental rights enforcement procedure, which is ideally and theoretically speaking a speedy process under the Nigerian judicial system, has kept Ifeanyi Orazulike at the Federal High Court Abuja till date without a final ruling on his suit. 

a.       The facts are compatible with the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights;
b.      The facts are not based exclusively on news disseminated through mass media( I also had a Facebook chat with Ifeanyi Orazulike ) ;
c.       Though local remedies have not been exhausted, it is obvious that the procedure is unduly prolonged;
d.      The case has not been settled by Nigeria in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, United Nations Charter, or the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity.

Saying that Ifeanyi Orazulike’s case constitutes a threat to human rights protection and preservation in Nigeria is cruel euphemism. It slams human rights and any chance of its protection in the face! This and several other cases of homophobic lashing out have kept pouring into the society and the social media since the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2013 came into existence. It has dealt activists, staff and volunteers of LGBTI focused and inclusive organisations a rude jab towards rethinking their commitments to the preservation of human rights and catering for everyone else. And this is mild compared to the great fright it has dealt on the LGBTI community in Nigeria. Making it worse is Nigeria’s snail-pace judicial system, where cases remain in the courts for ages before they are decided and concluded (even when they are human rights cases). The effect of this is that the sexual health of the masses, whether LGBTI or not, is rapidly deteriorating owing to the criminalisation of their source of health care and treatment (especially for the growing fraction who live with HIV and other sexual health challenges.)
The above stated Act and slow pace of the courts make the proper, effective and timely enforcement of the human rights compliant Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and other domestication human rights treaties an extremely herculean task- if not completely impossible.
Besides this, the Nigerian courts are reluctant to overrule the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2013, and anything that flows from its enforcement. As long as the Act sits where it does in Nigeria’s law, homophobia remains both kin and neighbour.
Resort to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights is timely at this point. The preservation and enforcement of Ifeanyi Orazulike’s human rights by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights shall boost the work and confidence of activists, staff, volunteers and health workers of ICARH and other African LGBTI focused and inclusive organisations in the preservation and promotion of human rights. Above all it shall foster Ifeanyi Orazulike’s undying temerity in preserving human rights in Nigeria- especially at a time like 2016, when the Nigerian LGBTI community suffers greatly.

Mr. Teriah Joseph Eba v. Federal Government of Nigeria (suit no: FHC/ABJ/CS/197/2014)
M Nathan, Nigerian human rights activists brings suit after unlawful detention (sourced on 24/01/2016)
(Vanguard) I Nnochiri, Nigeria: UK based Nigerian  asks court to declare same sex marriage law unconstitutional , null and void (sourced on 24/01/2016)
M Nathan, Breaking Nigerian courts strikes down case on anti-gay law (sourced on 24/01/2016)
C Stewart, Setback in court challenge to Nigerian anti-gay law (sourced on 24/01/2016)
AIDS 2014 Newsmaker: Ifeanyi Orazulike (sourced on 24/01/2016)
International Centre for Advocacy on the Rights to Health(ICARH) (sourced on 24/01/2016)

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