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Nigerian President Buhari Bluntly Rejects ‘Abhorrent’ Gay Rights on US Visit

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari meet in Lagos, Nigeria earlier this year. (Wikipedia)

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari meet in Lagos, Nigeria earlier this year. (Wikipedia)

Visiting Washington, DC, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari bluntly slapped down American leaders’ calls to improve his country’s LGBT rights record.

Addressing a joint session of the US Senate and House Committees on Foreign Affairs Wednesday, Buhari said sodomy is against Nigeria’s law and abhorrent to its culture. The Premium Times reports presidential special adviser Femi Adesina said Buhari was “pointblank” in declaring Nigeria’s anti-gay stance.

“The issue of gay marriage came up here yesterday,” Adesina tweeted Wednesday. “[Buhari] was pointblank. Sodomy is against the law in Nigeria, and abhorrent to our culture. Talks shifted to another matter once [he] emphatically stated Nigeria’s stand on same sex marriage. The issue was not pushed.”

The Washington Blade reports State Department spokesman John Kirby said Secretary of State John Kerry raised Nigeria’s abysmal LGBT rights record during his meeting with Buhari earlier this week.

“We made clear then as we have made clear publicly our concerns about this legislation, which criminalizes in particular homosexuality,” said Kirby. “We’ve been very clear that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights. And again we’ll continue to raise this issue moving forward.”

Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, last year signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which criminalizes gay marriages and civil unions and punishes gay couples who openly display their relationships with 14 years’ imprisonment. The law also bans gay rights organizations, including groups dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS, in the nation with the second-highest population of HIV-positive citizens.

It is also a crime for gays to have meetings, or to operate or attend a gay club, society or organization. Public displays of same-sex intimate affection are also outlawed, with offenders facing up to 10 years behind bars.

In Muslim areas of Nigeria governed under Shari’a law, homosexuality is punishable by death.

Nigeria has come under intense pressure from the United States, where the Supreme Court last month legalized same-sex marriage nationwide and where the Obama administration has made LGBT rights a key civil and human rights issue. Many Nigerians feared Buhari would bend to US pressure to legalize homosexuality; the resource-rich but notoriously corrupt and impoverished nation received $703 million in US aid last year, up from $670 million in 2013.

On Sunday, a group called the Project for Human Development (PHD) staged a rally in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, urging Buhari to stand firm against what many Nigerians see as Obama’s perverse pro-gay agenda.

“The US is now the major exporter of gay rights in the world,” PHD director-general Jerry Okwuosa said at the rally. “It has recently pressurized Uganda for a reverse of its anti-gay law. Under the influence of the US, Mozambique has recently decriminalized its anti-gay law. At the moment, US is putting pressure on Kenya to legalize gay marriage”

“President Obama is meeting with President Buhari tomorrow to discuss issues which include security, economy, Ebola and gay marriage legalization in Nigeria,” Okwuosa continued. “Fear is being entertained that Obama might trade off US assistance to President Buhari’s government with shooting down Goodluck Jonathan’s anti-gay law. We are however, urging President Buhari to reject such a trade-off.”

“Our view is that homosexuality is an acquired habit that ought to be eradicated and not be transformed into an acceptable human conduct by law,” added Sonnie Ekwowusi, a PHD director.

Gay Nigerians live in constant fear of mob violence. Last year, a group of around 40 angry bigots rampaged through Abuja, the nation’s capital, dragging men suspected of being homosexuals from their homes and brutally beating them with wooden clubs and iron bars.

Overall, anti-gay laws exist in 38 of Africa’s 54 nations, and in 83 countries worldwide.

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