LGBTQ Arrests at Vintage Hotel in Lagos, Nigeria
Last month, in Lagos, Nigeria, 42 young men and teenagers were arrested, detained, and arraigned in court for the allegation for being gay, which is illegal under the Nigerian constitution and for which one could face a prison term of 14 years in Prison.
Some young men gathered in Vintage Hotel somewhere in Lagos attending a party when the Nigerian Police Force stormed the venue and started to make immediate arrests from midnight till early morning of that same day.
Some people were able to make bail the same night, but those who had no money were taken to the police station for questioning and later detained, pending court proceedings.
As soon as the news of their arrests became public, some human rights and HIV organizations swung into action to secure the release of 42 detainees. Sadly, this became impossible as the matter is already headed for the court.
The organization working on HIV/AIDS started lobbying with the Police Action Committee on AIDS and the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency to intervene so that detainees could have access to their daily medications. Two people collapsed while still in detention, requiring resuscitation.
Because HIV-positive detainees did not have access to their medications, the human rights organizations advised those arrested to consent to an HIV test, so that the courts could grant them bail in the interim.
They applied for an emergency fund abroad to help support the case financially, but for reasons unknown, this was not approved. They then had to fall back on using money allocated for other HIV/AIDS initiatives. They also borrowed money from wherever they could. The young men were able to secure their bail on strict conditions. Even after bail had been granted, some family members would not welcome their children home, especially given that their sexuality and HIV status was made public.
Note it is illegal for any organization or individuals to work/intervene for the LGBT/gay community in Nigeria. The outcome would have to be a prison term. Two years ago the leader of the HIV/AIDS organization helping young men such as these was thrown out of where the group had been renting space because of suspicion of them being a gay population.
Now the media has not only exposed the arrest, but also the names, identities, and addresses of some family members. Some of those arrested don't even have a place to stay due to the publication of their faces online. Currently the case is still in court and everybody involved is living in constant fear. The best recommendation is for the Nigerian government to be lobbied from all sides.
It is important to note that, in a separate case, fifty-four people went on trial in Zaria in Northern Nigeria in May on charges connected to allegations that they were celebrating a gay wedding, which are illegal under the law. These trials were adjourned. What is unclear is what will follow.