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By Alexis Akwagyiram. LAGOS, Nigeria Reuters - The 57 men stumbled out of the back of a dark police truck into the glare of a sunny courtyard and a phalanx of cameras. They lined up on wooden benches in the dirt, almost all of them trying to hide their faces, and not succeeding. That law, which drew international condemnation when it came into force in , targets not only same-sex unions but homosexual relations in general with prison terms of up to 14 years.
The cameras panned over the faces of the men, capturing expressions of shame, fear and anger. It is when you are caught having sex, intercourse, with a guy. Video footage of the August news conference has since been viewed more than half a million times. Friends, colleagues and strangers all learned of the allegations from the videos that circulated online. Last November, after more than a year of court hearings, Brown was among 47 men who pleaded not guilty to a charge of public displays of affection by people of the same sex. Arrest warrants were issued for the 10 other men who failed to appear in court.
In a landmark case that may reach its resolution this month, the men face 10 years in prison if found guilty under the law, which has never been used to secure a conviction. But prison time or no, the men have already been punished. In this resolutely Christian and Muslim country, homosexuality is broadly rejected across society, as casual as a snub on the street and as serious as Sharia law that threatens death by stoning. One of the men is a married father of four who says he had driven people to the party to earn extra money.
Another man slept in a church outhouse after his family threw him out, until he was finally cast out of that safe harbor, too. A third man lives in fear of the street toughs who have beaten him up three times after recognizing him from the viral videos of the perp walk. These are the stories of lives broken by a birthday party late one night in Lagos — and by a culture that cast the men adrift. Around 2 on a Sunday morning, they streamed out of the building, running in every direction. Within seconds, the birthday party at a Lagos hotel turned into a stampede as people fled armed policemen who had burst into the compound.
Oguaghamba had been dozing in the car park of the Kelly Ann Hotel. After a long journey driving three customers to the hotel in the Egbeda suburb, he said, he had decided to sleep in the car rather than risk a perilous journey home on potholed ro where he could encounter armed robbers.
Assuming the dozens of people who raced past him were fleeing danger, Oguaghamba said, he got out of the car and ran. Seconds later, he said, he realized he was being held by a policeman using a gun as a bludgeon. Lagos state police spokesman Bala Elkana declined to comment on the beating claim on the grounds that the raid predated him. He rejected ed and text message requests to speak to police officers who participated in the raid.
After two weeks in police detention, he was fired as a bookkeeper with the Nigeria Union Of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, a job he had held for eight years. His former manager declined to respond to text messages and phone calls from a journalist. The year-old, who insists he is not gay, was unable to find work for a year after his arrest. Finally, in December, he was hired as a driver for a transport company.
While he was in police detention, they were told their father had been on television. I explained to them that the police can arrest anybody at any time. Most returned the greeting, but some, particularly men, seemed reluctant to acknowledge him, barely nodding in response and looking away. Wedding photos of Oguaghamba, known to most people by his Christian name Miracle, and his wife, Juliette, take pride of place on the living room walls. But as the couple discussed the case with a visiting journalist recently, they rarely made eye contact; he looked at the floor, and she fixed her gaze straight ahead.
While he was being detained, Juliette sent protection money to an inmate so he would be spared the beatings that he says many of the others he was arrested with were subjected to. Aside from the money, there was the indignity of a policewoman at the station accusing Juliette of having a gay husband. Finally, relations improved after a family meeting was convened at which her elder sister acted as a mediator between the couple.
It makes me angry because he lost a lot. The house was dark at the time because the electricity had been turned off weeks after the annual rent was due in October. Oguaghamba said he was able to pay some, but not all, of the money. Oguaghamba said he was angry at the way his life had been upended. The Lagos police force has yet to disclose what its officers saw during the raid that led to the charge of public displays of same-sex affection against Oguaghamba and the other men.
Since the November arraignment, the judge has adjourned the case three times because prosecution lawyers were unable to produce their witnesses. Police officials rejected a Reuters request for the police commissioner to provide details of the evidence that prompted the mass arrest and charges. Edgal, the commissioner who said he personally ordered the raid, left office early last year for a commissioner position in southern Nigeria. But in a wide-ranging media briefing with journalists in January, the current Lagos commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, spoke broadly about the application of the same-sex law.
But based on reports of mass police raids, Reuters estimates that the is likely to run into the hundreds each year. Information is also scarce on the of prosecutions, but activist groups say they know of none. The accusation of extortion and police harassment also has been leveled by international rights campaigners. In a report, Human Rights Watch cited a of alleged victims of police officers who had used the threat of a prison sentence to extort money from them. In interviews with Reuters, five people who acknowledged having same-sex relationships said that police in Lagos use that fear and the threat of the law to extort money from men.
Nigerian police have repeatedly denied the claim. Cases are infrequent, however, which means the punishment is rarely carried out. Gay people in Lagos say they live in fear of their sexuality becoming publicly known. Members of the gay community said they arrange discreet private gatherings such as house parties in the homes of friends.
Many also turn to dating apps and social media to set up romantic liaisons. When he was , Chris Agiriga said, his aunt gave him a home after his mother left Lagos to pursue a new life. Some 20 years later, his aunt told him to leave after he appeared on TV in the police line-up. Agiriga slept on the floor of an outhouse that he shared with another homeless man who had been taken in by the church. The church pastor told Reuters that Agiriga was a vulnerable young man who had been taken advantage of.
He wanted to help. But the arrangement ended after five months during which Agiriga clashed with his roommate. Agiriga now lives in a safe house for men in Lagos. He says he lost his job as a community outreach worker with an HIV charity after his arrest.
In Nigeria, unlike in other parts of the world, the condition is not primarily associated with gay communities but with unprotected sex in general. He saw what happened on TV. Before the raid, Agiriga wanted to pursue a career as a fashion deer. But he dropped out of his fashion course after losing the job that funded his studies.
Agiriga now works as an HIV counselor for a nonprofit group. A friend invited him, he said, and he was reluctant but was persuaded to go. Police raided the venue around 30 minutes after he arrived. For one of the other suspects, the dominant emotion since the arrest has been fear. People still point and stare as he walks by, he said, although it was worse in the first few months following the video.
Before the arrest, he said, it was the police who made him fearful. They tend to harass. He runs a laundry and dry-cleaning business from the room he shares with his mother and five younger siblings. But many customers have deserted him. The family has struggled to pay bills and buy food since then.
He was still preparing for the party in a hotel room with friends when the raid took place; parties in Lagos often spill over well into the early hours of the day. He says he has been ostracized by relatives. His elder sister asked him to leave the house she and her husband had shared with him.
Three days of homelessness followed, during which he slept underneath a bridge, before he sought shelter with friends. And, as with a of those who were arrested, he says he was fired. For the family man, Oguaghamba, his options look limited. Despite the setbacks, however, he remains optimistic about the future. He maintains he is innocent and believes he finally has a chance to defend himself after seeing his image tarnished on social media.
Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Kari Howard. World News Updated. By Alexis Akwagyiram 18 Min Read.Videos of guy sex
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