How An Unlawful Arrest Led To Uchenna Samuel Noble Breaking The Silence

How An Unlawful Arrest Led To Uchenna Samuel Noble Breaking The Silence

EDITOR’S WORD: When I learned of what happened to the Delta-based human rights activist, Uchenna Samuel Noble, and we talked about the story getting shared on Kito Diaries, he said something that stuck with me. He said, “Our community needs to know that it is okay to not only be who you are, but to say who you are in the face of those who are using their misinterpretation of the anti-gay law to victimize us.”

Here is his story.

*

May 19 2020 is a day when I had an experience I will never forget.

At about 5:45 pm, I got a phone call from an acquaintance of mine who happened to have visited my house once sometime last month, saying that he was “in the area and wanted to come and say hi.” I admitted that I was home and that he could come around.

Lo and behold, at 5:58 pm, my doorbell rang and when I opened up, I saw a team of six police officers (SARS), all geared up, with the said acquaintance standing in front of them, cuffed. I was dumbfounded and surprised to see this person in handcuffs in the company of policemen because he was someone I knew to be responsible and smart.

Before I could ask any questions, one of the officers asked if I knew their suspect and I replied yes. And that was it.

They barged past me into my home and began marching through the rooms, ransacking my house and roughly searching my personal belongings. While I was asking them their reasons for this invasion, they were snapping handcuffs on me, all the while turning my bedroom upside down. When I asked them their station and the warrant for this arrest, one of them gave me a resounding slap.

This was when I decided to calm down and simply follow the situation as it unfolds.

I asked for them to let me put on some clothes, since I just had on my boxers. Without removing my cuffs, I managed to put on my pants and slung my shirt over my shoulders. They took my phones, wallet and house keys, and ordered me out of the house. I managed to lock the front door and then they dragged me down the stairs. Bear in mind that they were yet to tell me what my crime was.

When we got to the gate, I saw their Sienna car and recognized their station, which happened to be the infamous Safe Delta Squad. The police command in Delta State had set up a special operational squad named Safe Delta to fight against kidnapping, cultism, and other criminal activities throughout the three senatorial districts of the state. This squad is the most dreaded and toughest in the Delta State Police Force. A picture of how they operate: if you happen to fall into their net, your phones will be confiscated and nobody will know of your whereabouts until they are done with their investigations. I know of a guy who was arrested since January and only got released this May. Their station is located along Asaba-Benin expressway before Isselle-Asagba, which is about two villages after Asaba metropolis. Not a lot of people know exactly where this station is located; those who do are usually men who’ve been detained by this police squad – young men who look good and drive good cars.

So, these policemen bundled me into their car and zoomed off in the presence of some onlookers. Along the way, I kept asking the other guy what led to the situation. He wouldn’t answer. Then I was asking the police officers what his crime was while also letting them know that I am a Human Rights Defender and that I have worked with the police in the state to combat crimes. I stated how I know their former commander and that my organisation makes contributions to the police force in Asaba. I was divulging all this information in a bid to get them to at least tell me what’s going on. But they stayed mum.

On getting to the station, they kept me behind the counter while they facilitated the bail of the guy who brought them to my house. About ten minutes later, they called me into one of the offices, unlocked my cuffs and showed me my WhatsApp chat with that acquaintance. I asked the officer reading the chat the reason he was reading to me a conversation I was familiar with. And he replied that the guy had confessed to being a homosexual and had claimed that I was his enabler.

And then, the situation suddenly became clear to me, and I geared myself for the drama that was to follow.

As this was going on, I remembered that #IDAHOBIT2020 just happened two days before, and the theme “Breaking the Silence” informed my decision to do what I did next. I looked steadily at these police men and told them that yes, I am a gay man and that I work with an organisation that offers services, particularly sexual healthcare, HIV prevention, treatment and care for gay men in the State. And that the person they arrested was a client at LIFFE’s facility, of which I happen to be the Programs Director. That there was no such thing as me being his enabler.

The Investigating Police Officer (IPO) retorted by calling me a criminal, saying that I am working in contrary the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) and that I was arrested in connection to a crime of a planned bank robbery which involved homosexual men who that guy was chatting with on WhatsApp.

I responded by clarifying them on the content of the SSMPA, reminding them that being gay as an identity is not a crime in Nigeria.

One particular officer kept asking me if I thought God was happy with me and if I know the implications of what I was saying. The whole thing had turned into a tussle of words, because I was refusing to be cowed by their intimidation and derogatory words, instead choosing to give matter-of-fact responses and standing my ground.

At about 7: 50 pm, the acquaintance was finally bailed and he left with his surety, while I was handed a police statement sheet to write my statement based on the questions the IPO would ask me. I kept on telling them that I need my phone to make calls, but an officer was busy going through my chats and photo gallery, and wowing at the erotic photos of men in my phone.

Eventually, I wrote my statement and my detention order was prepared. At about 8:35 pm, I was put inside the police cell without the option of contacting anybody.

In the early hours of May 20, LIFFE’s Project Manager, Obinna Obiasulu Samuel was able to locate the station after many efforts put into visiting all the police stations in town the previous night when the news of my arrests came to light. The arrogant IPO instructed him to go and come back by 4 pm without granting him any audience or even allowing him to meet with me.

Back in the cell, I kept my wits with me and maintained my boldness, much to the awe of the cell inmates, who I’d even engaged in human sexuality discussions. Some of them admitted to have learnt new things, even though some of their homophobia was glaring. We had a good talk, shared experiences and learned from each other – much to the surprise of the rogue officers, who no doubt thought these tough criminals would have beaten me up.

Finally, Obinna was able to get the Delta State Police Headquarters to call the station’s commander to demand that my immediate release be effected. This came as a shock to them, and my bail was immediately facilitated upon Obinna’s return to the station. They demanded N150, 000 for my bail, but Obinna quashed that bit of corruption by letting them know that bail was free. The IPO wasn’t at the station during this time, so I couldn’t get my personal effects like my phones back.

At about 5:45 pm, I eventually returned home.

Even coming home did not relieve me of the terror I was feeling. I was aware that I stand the risk of arbitrary police arrests. But I was fulfilled that I had stood firm in my witness of my true identity even in the toughest situation and before law enforcement officers without fear or shame. I was fulfilled and glad that I was able to break the silence and shame associated with homosexuality before policemen who are so quick to extort gay men by threatening to charge them to court if they refuse to admit to the crime of homosexuality. In this case, I admitted my homosexuality, but even though they kept pressuring me to admit to gay sex by asking who my partner is and how I practise homosexuality, I refused to be entrap myself. In fact, part of my statement read thus: “I have been aware of my innate and natural attractions to same sex, but I have never acted on it all my life.”

Wisdom, they say, is profitable to the wise.

It is not easy to stay true to your strength in the face of targeted police arrest engineered by homophobia. It can be exhausting and mind draining. At a point, I felt broken by the ordeal. I couldn’t hold back my tears.

The next day, May 21, I had to go back to the station to reclaim my personal effects. On getting there, once again, these guys would not stop with their pitiful homophobia. They kept on targeting snide comments at me, mocking the fact that a man could ever be attracted to another man. To them, an internet fraudster who rapes women and brags about it is more “responsible” than me. At a point, the IPO said that he is a responsible man because he is married to two women and has seven children. Never mind that he has a mistress who he keeps here since these two wives are not in the state with him.

All this has been exhausting – and quite terrifying still. Knowing that these policemen now know where I stay and, due to their rogue attitude, may decide to invade me in the future has me feeling scared. I got a call some evenings ago, from a friend asking me to stay calm and keep my head down, seeing as a senior officer of the squad reportedly made threats that he would hound me till I flee from Delta State; that I would not be allowed to stay here and continue “spreading and promoting evil deeds.” He can say something like this, seeing as the governor of Delta State has explicitly condemned homosexuality in the past, one such time which I witnessed in an occasion where he openly declared his mandate to tackle homosexuality in Delta State at the Full Gospel Businessmen Regional convention in 2015.

But however much fear I feel at all this, I will not cower and I will continue to keep my head high, and speak my truth always. Of course, for one to find themself in this kind of situation can be demoralizing to their morale. But with the support of a loving and committed staff and friends, I will keep doing what I do. We will keep rendering our invaluable services to the community of persons we serve. Presently, I am staying with a good friend until this drama subsides and I am able to relocate my home.

But come rain, come shine, I will keep coming out better than I was.

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11 Comments

  1. Guang
    May 24, 09:37 Reply

    Dreadful things are happening in this country. You are not alone dear brother, trust me, you will come out of this, stronger than you have ever been.

  2. Mandy
    May 24, 10:05 Reply

    Gosh, this made my day. A read that absolutely gassed me up, men! Thank you, Uchenna, for your courage and bravery. The first step to our freedom in this country is to challenge our society’s perception of us being weak and hiding in the shadows. That police officer threatening to run you out of town represents that part of society that is shocked at your audacity to be open and frank about who you are. Visibility is ever so important for us in this country.
    Thank you again.
    And thanks to everyone doing what they do, using their lives to show the world we exist.

  3. Mafiaso
    May 24, 10:09 Reply

    Noble, I am really sorry for what you went through in the hands of those hypocrites, majority of them are also gay (masquerading in police uniform). If anything, I give kudos to you for the intelligent and bold answers you gave at their station. Madonna once said, “The ultimate dare is to tell the truth”, yes you owned your truth, so no one will ever blackmail you with that.

    Secondly, you bluntly refused to mention any name for them to victimize. This is really commendable, we should learn to protect each other’s identity .

    If you are interested in migrating to Europe , this is a blessing in disguise, you can use this incident to build up you case and leave this shithole for a better future, where you can live freely, before these idiots snipe the life out of you . Well done once again Nobel, for the noble deed.

  4. Realme
    May 24, 10:29 Reply

    This is so comforting. Thank you so much for sharing

  5. Delle
    May 24, 12:44 Reply

    This just reminds me of my ordeal in the hands of these rogues in 2015.

    Thanks for staying true to yourself, Uchenna. It, indeed, is not an easy feat.

    Made my day ❤

    And no, there won’t be any more attacks on you. If anything, your brazen assertions and confident acceptance of self in the face of such adversity will stun them for a long time and I’m pretty sure they’re in awe.

    Thanks again for this hopeful call.

  6. Rick
    May 24, 12:58 Reply

    Sorry for ur ordeal, it really is sad that we get harrassed for nothing but being different from the norm and kudos for staying true to yourself and ur experience was an encouraging tale but it really isn’t the same with everyone.

    I read your story and my main concern isn’t just the homophobia but also the injustice.
    An innocent person is unjustly arrested and harrassed by the police without a chance to contact anybody. seriously, what’s the difference between that and a kidnapping?
    Atleast the kidnapers would contact a family member.

    And I am happy u got out safe, but just imagine those “policemen” are still out there and most definitely will do the same to more people who will be unjustly held till they get tired of them when actual criminals roam the streets free.

    1 of our greatest weakness in Nigeria-not just the LGBTQ community-is the oneness. If some1 less privileged than u finds him/herself in a similar situation things would be a lot worse.

    I believe the first step to making sure future youths-LGBTQ or not-do not go through the same ordeal is exposing the faults and human rights violations in the Nigerian security agencies and bringing it up to a national level so the leaders tackle them and don’t just brush it under the rug.

  7. Fred
    May 24, 15:11 Reply

    This proves that we can be stronger than our weakest link.

  8. bamidele
    May 24, 16:21 Reply

    great story! It is so sad that they’re intimidating some of us to destroy us. Dear and insecurity has always be a major problem of africans whereever they are. I am glad you defile this fear.

    I am particularly concerned about the police comment, which was made of course out of ignorance rampaging of many Nigerians irrespective other level of education. Or how can a police boldly claim that fraudsters and rapers are more responsible than gays. Professional police officers are not even supposed to discussed any form of cases outside the one at hand. And that one with two wives, 7 children and mistresses who probably depended on him for a living; and we wonder why bribery and corruption among the police for are so rampant. It is s shame that one cannot even be proud of one’S society… really.

  9. trystham
    May 24, 17:50 Reply

    I am wowed and thankful for that shove that made you adamant, and stand your ground

  10. ÌyanuOlúwa
    May 25, 12:17 Reply

    This is terrifying…. I’m happy you stood your ground and came out victorious. You can’t shame the shameless

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