A Nigerian lawyer Oludare Falana, representing the 57 alleged gay men accused of engaging in same sex activities at a club in the Egbeda area of Lagos, has accused Police of stalling the case against the men.
Oludare, while speaking to Premium Times, said the Police is yet to file their proof of evidence before the court and have refused to grant the accused bail.
“If you’re going to charge people to court, you must give us the proof of evidence,” Mr Falana said at press conference on Monday August 26.
“The proof of evidence is everything you were able to gather together during your investigation which informed your decision to charge them to court.
“From my understanding and my interaction with some of these boys, they were in a party, so how do you prove to the whole world that they were engaged in same-sex? We have 57 boys, who is having sex with the other? How were they doing it?
“It’s been exactly one year that these boys have been arrested and detained, and I can tell you, as at the last time we were in court, not a single charge has been preferred against them.
“I was in court personally myself on the last adjourned date and I tried to move the magistrate to strike out the case because as far as I’m concerned, there is no case before the court because there is no charge. But in her wisdom, she said no, that she is going to adjourn.
“Counsel to the police mentioned that they are trying to put heads together and charge them before a federal high court, that it was a federal offence.”
Admitting that he is aware of Nigeria’s anti-gay law which criminalises same-sex relationships and also has a conviction of up to 14 years in prison, Falana maintained that it is subservient to the Nigerian Constitution.
He also lashed out at the Police for parading the young men before the media and then stalling their trial in court.
“The question here is this, if the Constitution has guaranteed their freedom of association, freedom to assemble together, that fundamentally-guaranteed freedom cannot be taken away at the whims and caprice of anybody including the state.
“Anybody can gather, that is what the Constitution says, the Constitution never mentioned that boys must not stay together or girls must not assemble” he said.
“These boys have been shown to the whole world as homosexuals, as criminals. At the end of the day, if the state cannot prefer a charge against them in one year, it tells a lot about whatever is wrong with their investigation.
“Secondly, how are you going to make up for this stigmatisation? Are you going to take them back on air and say we are sorry these boys are not whom we thought they are? How do you ameliorate their pains in terms of re-creating the wrong impression you have given the whole world?” he added.
Also lamenting over the demonization of the young men by friends and family after being arrested over homosexuality by the Police, Xeenarh Mohammed, the executive director of The Initiative for Equal Rights stated that the men have not had the chance to clear their names thereafter.
“The reason we are here today is because of the miscarriage of justice that has been done here in Lagos State both by the police and the entire legal system,” said Ms Mohammed.
“Today is exactly a year since the people at a birthday party were arrested, detained for days, maltreated and they’ve still not seen justice. They’ve been branded as criminals, displayed to the rest of the world and they have not had a chance to clear their names.”