Post-Twitter Ban, LGBTQ Nigerians Remind Everyone That Gay Rights Are Human Rights

Post-Twitter Ban, LGBTQ Nigerians Remind Everyone That Gay Rights Are Human Rights

On Friday June 4, the Nigerian Federal Government ordered a ban on Twitter in Nigeria. And by Saturday, mobile phone networks blocked access to the microblogging site after apparently being ordered to do so. This move has not only prompted a swift backlash, as Nigerians took to downloading VPNs in order to tweet their outrage at the presidency’s actions, but has brought about widespread condemnation from human rights groups and international powers, who say it will limit free speech in Nigeria.

However, the government appeared to double down on its decisions when the Justice Minister Abubakar Malami said he had “directed for the immediate prosecution of offenders of the Federal Government ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria”, telling the public prosecutor to “swing into action”.

Amidst the outrage however, LGBTQ Nigerians are reminding everyone that this isn’t the first time the Nigerian government has taken steps to abuse the human rights of its citizens.

Back in January 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which effectively criminalised the identity of queer Nigerians, making them a target for human rights violations for years – a move that was lauded by many Nigerians.

This however had the unintended effect of pushing LGBTQ Nigerians and allies to the forefront of the fight for their rights, despite many instances of the government and public weaponizing the law against them. From the constant arrests of partying men under the guise of gay initiation practises to the homophobic pushback against the inclusion of the Queer Nigerian Lives Matter movement in the EndSARS protests, the queer community has had to deal with its country people resisting the recognition of their human rights.

And this makes it very ironic that these same voices are raised in condemnation of the same government’s actions against the free speech of Nigerians.

Ife The Movie’s director, Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim, was among the first people to speak on the hypocrisy on Twitter.

“I see many of you talking about how this is an infringement on our human and constitutional rights,” she tweeted. “True, but remember the laws against LGBTQ+ people? Plenty of you love and support it.”

She went on to point out how “the oppression go reach all of us.”

The Equality Hub director, Pamela Adie, also talked about how she was denied the process of registering an NGO, because the organisation had the word “lesbian” in it. She sued and the High Court ruled against her, much to the joy of homophobic Nigerians.

“I remember people saying, ‘No space for this in Nigeria’,” she tweeted. “I laughed, coz discrimination be like breakfast. It goes round and everyone will eventually get their share. The truth is that when we allow the government to discriminate against people and deny them their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms because we do not like them or agree with them, we inevitably lay the path for us to face the same discrimination somewhere down the line.”

This brings to bear the famous quote by German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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