US lawmakers protest arrest, parade of gay suspects in Warri

Prince George’s County Council member Krystal Oriadha speaks in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Northwest D.C. on Sept. 12, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

On Tuesday, a group of Black American LGBTQ lawmakers protested in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Northwest Washington, condemning the recent arrest and parade of 67 gay suspects at a same-sex wedding in Delta State, the Washington Blade is reporting.

The LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) American lawmakers at the protest included some members of the US House of Delegates, Gabriel Aceve, Krystal Oriadha, Ashanti Martinez, Krystal Oriadha, and the National Black Justice Coalition Public Policy and Programs Director; Victoria Kirby York.

Bright Edafe, the police spokesperson in Delta State, said operatives had intercepted a cross-dresser who confessed that he was a member of a gay club and was on his way to a gay marriage ceremony.

He led the operatives to the ceremony venue at Teebolus Hotel, off Refinery Road, Ekpan in Warri.

The marriage ceremony, according to the police, was for a gay couple – Daniel Pius (groom) and 22-year-old Maxwel Ohwonohwo (bride).

The police also threatened to prosecute the paraded suspects by the law.

Since the botched wedding, there has been a series of conversations since homosexual relationships are illegal in Nigeria.

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Nigeria’s anti-gay law, enacted in January 2014 by President Goodluck Jonathan‘s administration, stipulates a 14-year prison term for anyone convicted of having sex with members of the same sex.

US LGBTQ lawmakers protest

The lawmakers protested the arrest of the suspects in Delta state, demanded the release of all the detainees and requested that the Nigerian police drop all the charges.

Speaking during the protest, Maryland State Delegate Gabriel Acevero, a Democrat, who is also the first openly gay man of Afro-Latino descent elected to the Maryland General Assembly, said that queer Nigerians are not a threat to Nigerian identity or national security, but Boko Haram is.

He said, “What we saw with the recent arrest and detention is not just a violation of people’s rights with this unjust arrest, but the parading of LGBTQIA+ folks before the media as if Nigerian law enforcement officials have accomplished some sort of a public safety measure”.

The National Black Justice Coalition Public Policy and Programs Director, Victoria Kirby York, noted that she is of Nigerian descent and said she has not visited Nigeria because she is frightened as an openly lesbian person and may be detained.

She, therefore, demanded that Nigeria release the detainees and drop the charges.

Also speaking at the protest was Ashanti Martinez, Afro-Latino and the first openly gay man to represent Prince George’s County in the House of Delegates, who said they have heavy hearts addressing a pressing issue that demands their immediate attention.

He said: “Nigeria, a nation with immense potential and cultural richness, is currently taking a stance to contradict the principles of equality and human rights. We’re here to protest Nigeria’s anti-LGBTQ policy and urge for change.

“We’re here to demand that Nigeria release all the detainees and drop all the charges because, in a world increasingly recognising the importance of diversity and inclusion, Nigeria’s discriminatory laws against the LGBT community remain a stain on his reputation. These laws not only perpetuate prejudice but also infringe upon the fundamental human rights of countless Individuals”.

Krystal Oriadha, who is bisexual, noted that her father was born in Kenya. She is a member of the US council, Prince George’s County, representing District 7, since December 5, 2022. She dismissed the idea that homosexuality is a Western concept.

Zachary Parker, who is the first Black gay man elected to the D.C. City Council, in his remarks, said that Nigeria is one of many countries in which anti-LGBTQ crackdowns are taking place.

He said, “The notion that this is a white American imperialist viewpoint and values that are trying to be imposed on these cultures is not true,” said Oriadha. “That notion alone ignores the existence, the mere existence of their people in their communities.”

The Ward 5 council member also highlighted discrimination and violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation, which remain problems in D.C. and the U.S.

“We know, sadly, that we’re today protesting Nigeria, but we can also protest Pakistan, we can protest Jamaica and Haiti and a host of other countries around the globe where Black queer people are being prosecuted or being killed.

“Even here in our own country, where Black trans people are being hunted on our streets or have gone missing without even a notice, where there are bans on books, there are bans and our oppressive policies against our bodies, even here in the nation’s capital,” he said.

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