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Nigeria Gays, same sex marriage, and human rights

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko is the National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

In this interview, first published by Daily Trust, he supports the bill prohibiting same sex marriage in Nigeira, arguing that human righst have limitations.

What are the objectives of setting up the Human Rights Writers Association
of Nigeria (HURIWA)?

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria is a platform that brings together all creative writers, philosophers, deep thinkers-what we call humane thinkers-authors, journalists, people in the entertainment industry, to work for the enhancement of the principle of rule of law, respect for the human rights of citizens by government and all stakeholders, and the establishment and enthronement of durable democracy and good governance in Nigeria.

Talking about freedom of the press, recently the House of Representatives again threw out the Freedom of Information Bill (FOIB). How would you react to that?

What the legislators told us was that they were new and they needed more time to get acquainted with the provisions in that bill. Be that as it may, they have had three or four months to read through the provisions and to amend the bill. We do not see any reason why that bill has not been debated and passed. The only reason why they are not in a hurry to pass that bill is because the judgements that have been turned in by the courts have told Nigerians that elections that saw the emergence of most of these lawmakers were substantially flawed.

Some of us feel that these people have some skeletons they’re hiding. But whether they pass the FOIB or not, the ball is in the court of journalists to become investigative- we don’t have to fold our hands and say we want the National Assembly to give us the tools to do our work; they will not give you because they have a lot of things they’re hiding.

For instance, a recent report had it that apart from the statutory allowances paid to the lawmakers, each of them pockets an average of N100 million-taxpayers’ money-every year that is not budgeted for; that is not
approved by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

 The report is there and nobody has countered it. But what one of the spokesmen of one of the chambers of the National Assembly said was that the reporters should go and ask the President and governors why they enjoyed security votes. How do you expect the government to support the pass age of the FOIB into an Act of the National Assembly that allows journalists to expose how much they get as security votes? Do you know how much each governor gets as security vote? These are some of the critical issues Nigerians should come out on the street and ask.

Recently, gay persons were at the National Assembly to protest and demand for the protection of their human rights. What is your position on that?

The position of HURIWA is that the demand for the right to same-sex marriage is a demand for madness. It’s like a mad man coming out on the street to tell sane people that they must make a law allowing him to be completely mad. Those guys who went to the National Assembly should have been arrested
by the police. It’s quite unfortunate that people went and told the whole world that they were homosexual. I know that homosexualism in the north, under the criminal code, is a crime.

Even under our normal criminal law, homosexualism and lesbianism are criminal acts. So why should somebody come out publicly and say ‘I am a homosexual’ just because he believes he has human rights to say whatever he wants to say?

They don’t know that human rights have limitations– you have freedom of assembly, association, but you do not have the freedom to commit crime, you don’t have the freedom to marry the same gender. It’s not done; it’s against our established marriage practices and traditions.

 We are a people [who are] proud [of our] African traditions. Nigeria is a country of Muslims, Christians, and traditionalists who still respect the African traditions of marriage. In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is clearly stated that marriage constitutes the union of a man and a woman to form a family unit. You cannot change the definition of marriage. The law to prohibit same-sex marriage
should be vigorously pursued and passed.