Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
  • Criminalises the gender identity/expression of trans people
  • Death penalty
Commonwealth member state
Criminal Code Act, S. 214 Carnal Knowledge Against the Order of Nature

Section 214 criminalises “carnal knowledge” against the order of nature with a penalty of fourteen years imprisonment. It applies to sexual intercourse between men. Section 215 criminalises attempts to commit the offences prohibited under Section 2141

Sharia Law

Sharia Law in 12 northern States criminalises same-sex intimacy between both men and women.

Criminal Code Act, S. 217 Gross Indecency

Section 217 prohibits acts of “gross indecency” between men, or the procurement or attempted procurement thereof, with a penalty of three years imprisonment.3

Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013, S. 5(1) Same Sex Marriage or Civil Union

Section 5(1) prohibits the entering into a same-sex marriage or civil union with a penalty of fourteen years.4

Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013, S. 5(2) Registering, Operating or Participating in a Gay Club

Section 5(2) criminalises registering, operating or participating in gay clubs, societies or organisations, or making a public show of a same-sex relationship with a penalty of ten years imprisonment.5

Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013, S. 5(3) Aiding or Solemnicising a Same-Sex Marriage or Supporting an LGBT Organisation

Section 5(3) criminalises administering, witnessing, aiding or abetting the solemnisation of a same-sex marriage or union, or supports LGBT organisations with a penalty of ten years imprisonment.6



In October, a case against 47 men charged with public displays of affection with members of same sex was thrown out. Presiding judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, struck out the case and said he had done so due to the “lack of diligent prosecution”.

I am free. It means a lot of good things.

James Brown, defendant

The men had been charged under the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. The case had previously been delayed several times after prosecution witnesses failed to appear. Judge Rilwan Aikawa said: “Listen, the court will not stop you from trying to present a case but you must do it properly and according to law. This is the last adjournment.”

In January, religious police arrested 15 recent graduates at a party in Kano, northern Nigeria. In confirming the arrests, Deputy Commander-General Shehu Tasi’u Is’haq said: “We arrested and transferred the errant students to our correctional centre at our headquarters in Sharada. While at our correctional centre, they will be re-oriented and at the close of the day, they will desist from their waywardness and turn a new leaf.slam is opposed to same-sex partners, which is a taboo. As an institution, our responsibility is to correct youth, who are going astray, reminding them that devout Muslims forbid homosexual acts, which will not be tolerated.”


On 11 December, 47 men stood trial for making “public show of same sex amorous relationship” under Section 5(2) of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013.

On 27 November, 47 of the 57 arrested in 2018 pleaded not guilty to charges under Section 5(2) of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013. The case was adjourned until 11 December and the defendants were granted bail provided that they pay 500,000 naira (approx. £1,050).


On 26th August 2018, 57 men were arrested at Kelly Ann Hotel and Events Centre in the Egbeda district of Lagos. Police claimed that those arrested were about to be “initiated” into a gay club/organisation, while those arrested indicated that it was a “birthday party”. The men were arraigned before a chief magistrate on 30th August 2018, pleading not guilty to charges of conspiracy, membership of a secret cult and unlawful gathering. They were remanded in custody, pending fulfilment of their bail conditions (200,000 Naira and one surety each). They were subsequently charged instead under the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013 (“SSMPA”)


The US Department of State Human Rights Report for Nigeria indicated that during 2017 the government brought formal charges under the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013 (SSMPA) for the first time. As of November, a hotel owner and two staff were awaiting trial on charges of aiding and abetting homosexual activities contrary to Section 5(2) of the SSMPA.

While many of the northern Nigerian states have adopted an interpretation of Sharia law under which same-sex sexual activity can be punished with death by stoning, the US Department of State report noted that there have been no recent examples of such penalties being imposed, with Sharia courts instead imposing a penalty of lashings in recent years.


In January, an Islamic law enforcement agency, the Hisbah, arrested 12 men in the north Nigerian city of Kano for allegedly planning a same-sex wedding. The head of the Hisbah, Aminu Daurawa, told Agence France-Presse that the suspects “looked and acted feminine”, which prompted their arrest.


In May, Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper reported that police in Asaba, Delta State “uncovered a hideout of lesbians… and have arrested 26 suspects.”

In the same month, 21 men were reportedly arrested in Ibadan for being in a “gay cult”, having been found with over 100 condoms in their possession.

Three men were arrested in February – Ope Abeeb, 18 years, Samed Ojo, 20 years and Oluwasegun Adesina-Rasheed, 64 years. The men were arraigned, imprisoned and are awaiting trial.

Thousands of protestors threw stones into a Sharia court in Bauchi, northern Nigeria, in January, and demanded death sentences for the 11 men arrested for belonging to gay organisations. The court was forced to suspend the trial and security required to disperse the mob.

Mubarak Ibrahim, a 20-year-old, was tried and convicted of sodomy in January. He was flogged with a horse whip in public (20 lashes) and fined $30.

24 people were arrested in January in three southern States, Most had been detained previously and were re-arrested after the SSMPA was announced.

In the northern State of Bauchi, a crackdown took place immediately following the signing of the SSMPA resulting in the arrest of 38 men with searches continuing for a further 168 men, whose names were included on a list of suspects that had been compiled under conditions of torture. Dorothy Aken’Ova, a rights activist with the Nigeria-based International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, told the BBC that some of those arrested in Bauchi State were beaten up and tortured.

Five men appeared in a sharia court in Bauchi in January on charges of forming a gay club.


Police in northern Nigeria detained four men over the Christmas holidays and allegedly tortured them until they named others belonging to a gay organisation.

Two men, Emeka Eze, 35, and Jonathan Akatin, 22, were arraigned in the Northern city of Jos in October and charged with homosexual acts under Section 284 of the Penal Code (Northern States) Federal Provisions Act. Those arrests brought the total number of persons in prison or awaiting trial to 12.

Samuel Friday, 19, and Oni Oluwatobi, 18, were arraigned in October on charges of homosexual activity.

In September, police arrested 32 male undergraduate students for alleged homosexual acts.

A man identified as Sadiq was reportedly arrested in August and beaten based on allegations of homosexual conduct.

In the same month, Pastor Benjamin Ndubuisi was accused, charged and prosecuted for having carnal knowledge with a 23-year-old man based on hearsay rumours by locals. LGBT advocates allege that the accused may have been beaten during his detention.

Police arrested seven men in January on suspicion of being homosexuals following a quarrel between two of them during which they accused each other of being homosexuals.

Pastors Prince Ejimole and Lawrence Udo were arrested, charged and prosecuted in January for unlawful carnal knowledge after being caught having sex in a Lagos hotel.

Statements by Public Figures


In April, Babatunde Fashoe, a Prominent Nigerian official and former governor of Lagos state, said that “he does not know that gay people are persecuted in Lagos state”. He made that comment as a responding to a question about his stand to homosexuality and the LGBT condition in Lagos state on the Commonwealth Peoples Forum at the Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting 2018 In London.

In May, the Nigerian Permanent Representative to the UN was vocal in his opposition to the report of the UN High Commissioner that describes Nigeria’s abhorrence of LGBT rights. He noted that “Nigeria rejects unreservedly same-sex marriage, lesbians, and gays in its population and that Nigeria had as duty to protect family values, religious and cultural values which are bedrock of the society.”

Nigeria rejects unreservedly same-sex marriage, lesbians, and gays in its population.

Tijjani Muhammad Bande, Nigeria Permanent Representative to the UN


Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari reported in July that during a visit to the United States of America “the issue of gay marriage came up… PMB [President Buhari] was point blank. Sodomy is against the law in Nigeria, and abhorrent to our culture.”

In July, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, said: “even if people don’t like us for it, our church has always said homosexuality is unnatural and marriage is between a man and a woman… There is no question of the Catholic Church changing its positions on this matter.”

In February, three leading Nigerian Authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jackie Kay and Helon Habila, condemned the new Nigerian anti-homosexuality law and called for its repeal.

Sodomy is against the law in Nigeria, and abhorrent to our culture.

Femi Adesina, Presidential Special Adviser


Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, stated in January: “We call on all those talking about human rights and international conventions to remember that there is always a limit to certain rights and that those who go out of their ways to overstep the limits now know the consequences of their actions… Human rights without limit are recipes for the destruction of any society. The culture and morality of a people must be taken into cognizance because it is important to remember that culture and morality are intricately linked with each other. By the beliefs of most Nigerians, same sex marriage is offensive to us as a people.”

In January, the Foreign Secretary of the UK expressed his disappointment that the SSMPA had received presidential assent: “We are concerned by the prospect this raises of further action against an already marginalised section of society.”


The national report provided by Nigeria in its second UPR cycle made the claim that “sexual and gender minorities are not visible in Nigeria and there is no officially registered association of gays and lesbians.”

In July, Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, criticised foreign diplomats for trying to ‘impose’ gay rights on Nigeria. The Minister declared: “It is not part of our own culture. It needs to evolve. Let us get to that stage of understanding that two men can marry, then we will get to the bridge and cross it.”

Navi Pillay, then UN Human Rights Commissioner, condemned Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act in July: “I am very concerned that the rights of LGBT people, the sexual orientation rights are being violated, that they are subjected to discrimination… I condemn this law of Nigeria because it violates the equality clause both in Nigerian law and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

In January, President of the Senate, David Mark, insisted that the SSMP bill was “irrevocable” and “we will not compromise on this”. Instead, Nigeria has to “prove to the rest of the world, who are advocates of this unnatural way that we Nigerians promote and respect sanity, morality and humanity.”[xi]


In December, Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, criticised the (then) proposed anti-homosexuality bill: “If there are scientific explanations for homosexual conduct – and these have been expounded in profusion – then a process of education is called for, enabling a more empathetic response to what appears an aberration to the majority.”

Persecution and Discrimination


In December, a BBC video documented a man who had been subjected to flogging and other mistreatment and a woman who had oil poured into her vagina, as a form of ‘conversion therapy’.


Nigerian police arrested more than 100 men and women at a June hotel party in Asaba, Delta state. The police charged them of being gays and lesbians.

In May, a Nigerian family disowned their lesbian daughter in national newspaper after she had requested for a special marriage license at the federal marriage registry to allow her to consummate a same-sex marriage with other woman.

According to the US Department of State’s Human Rights Report:

“Following passage of the SSMPA, LGBTI persons reported increased harassment and threats against them based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity… the law had become a tool used by police and members of the public to
legitimize human rights violations against LGBTI persons such as torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, extortion, and violations of due process rights.”


In July, police in Lagos arrested approximately 70 individuals, including 13 minors, at a hotel party that was part of a HIV awareness event where police stated homosexual activities took place. As of November, 27 adults and 13 minors were still awaiting trial on lesser charges under the Lagos State Penal Code. The hotel owner and two staff members, however, were charged with aiding and abetting homosexual activities.

53 men were arrested for celebrating a gay wedding in April. They have been charged with “belonging to a gang of unlawful society”.


In August, a podcast reported the story of a lesbian woman in Nigeria who was displaced from her home, blackmailed and faced the possibility of arrest in relation to her sexual orientation. In a separate episode of the same podcast, a man told of being taken “to a compulsory everyday prayer and fasting session” after coming out to his family.

A lesbian woman reportedly fled Nigeria in June despite having children because her family and friends criticised and alienated her for her sexual orientation.

A telephone poll of 1,000 Nigerians in May found that 87% of respondents support the SSMPA and only 11% would be willing to accept a family member if they were lesbian, gay or bisexual.


Ifeanyi Orazulike, who operates a clinic for HIV clinic for MSM and trans women in Abuja, told the International AIDS Conference in July of the impact that Nigeria’s new SSMP law was having on HIV treatment: “We used to have about 60 people a month; post-law it is down to about 10 to 15 people… For fear of going to prison, people preferred to stay at home on their sick bed.”

In Geshiri town near Abuja in February, a mob of about 40 men reportedly dragged a number of suspected gay men from their beds in the middle of the night, after smashing down doors to their homes in house-to-house raids. The victims were taken onto the streets and beaten with sticks spiked with nails, wires, whips and broken furniture. Members of the mob were shouting that they were “cleansing the community” of gays and “we are working for Jonathan”Some were taken to the police station where officers looked on and insulted them while others joined in slapping and beating them. The mobs also attempted to burn down the houses of the suspected gay men. After the attack the mob wrote “homosexuals, pack and leave” on the homes of the men they assaulted and warned them “if you come back, we will kill you”. A senior police officer in the region gave the victims of the mob attack 48 hours to leave.

In January, in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, two men were reportedly forced out of their home and made to masturbate and have anal sex while mobs of onlookers jeered and filmed them on camera phones. The footage was then posted and shared on social media.


In Ota, Ogun State of western Nigeria, a young man was beaten by a mob of villagers for allegedly being gay in August.

In June, a gay man was entrapped by plain-clothes police who tricked his partner into meeting at a rendezvous and also arrested him at gunpoint. Both were charged under the SSMP Bill even though it had not been signed into law. They were detained for two days and released after paying a bribe.

In the same month, a man was stopped by police who insisted on searching his phone and laptop in which gay pornography was found. Police obtained his parents’ numbers from his phone and threatened to tell them unless he paid a bribe.

Three men were stripped, paraded through streets naked and then brutally beaten in January. Similar incidents are still being reported.

Legislative News


During its third UPR cycle in August, the stakeholders summary report stated that Nigeria has not supported any of the recommendations from the previous review that inter alia related to the repealing of the laws that discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The state did however note a recommendation to decriminalise same-sex sexual activity.


In March, Nigeria voted in favour of a failed Russian draft decision at the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) that would have had the Secretary-General withdraw his bulletin providing UN staff benefits for same-sex couples.


In October, Nigeria’s Federal High Court dismissed a challenge to the SSMPA brought by Joseph Teriah Ebah, a Nigerian man who lives in the UK.

In January the SSMPA came into force.


During its second UPR cycle, Nigeria rejected recommendations to decriminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity. The delegation noted that: “The issue of sexual orientation did not enjoy consensus within the United Nations human rights system, and all attempts to integrate sexual orientation into existing universally recognized human rights had so far failed. The overwhelming majority of Nigerians objected to same-sex relationships, on the basis of their deeply held religious, cultural and moral beliefs, against which no government could successfully legislate. There was no policy or practice of witch-hunting people on the basis of their sexual orientation… The delegation stated that Nigeria did not accept the recommendations on same-sex marriage because it conflicted with national and cultural values. A poll conducted in 2011 had indicated that 92 per cent of the people were against same-sex marriage.”

1. Criminal Code Act, S. 214 Carnal Knowledge Against the Order of Nature & S. 215 Attempt to Commit Carnal Knowledge Against the Order of Nature

“Any person who-

(1) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or

(3) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature;

is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.”

“Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences defined in the last preceding section is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for seven years. The offender cannot be arrested without warrant.” Full text.

2. Sharia Law & Kano State Penal Code (Amendment No. 12) 2014

12 northern States criminalise same-sex intimacy through the application of Sharia Law.

Kano State Penal Code (Amendment No.12) 2014, ss.4 & 5 (Amending ss.284 and 285, Kano State Penal Code Cap 105 1991):

4(2). Any woman who has a feeling of love for another woman or girl and went ahead to employ the means of satisfying that passion either through bodily contact or otherwise with or without her consent in order to derive sexual pleasure is said to have committed lesbianism and shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of fourteen years and shall be liable to a fine of fifty thousand Naira (N50,000).

5. Whoever (a) commits an act of gross indecency upon the person of another… is said to have committed an offence and shall be punished with imprisonment for fourteen years and shall be liable to a fine of fifty thousand Naira (N50,000).

3. Criminal Code Act, S. 217 Gross Indecency

“Any male person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another male person, or procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself or with another male person, whether in public or private, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. The offender cannot be arrested without warrant.” Full text.

4. Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013, S. 5(1) Same Sex Marriage or Civil Union

“A person who enters into a same sex marriage contract or civil union commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 14 years imprisonment.” Full text.

5. Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013, S. 5(2) Registering, Operating or Participating in a Gay Club

“A person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisation, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.” Full text.

6. Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013, S. 5(3) Aiding or Solemnicising a Same-Sex Marriage or Supporting an LGBT Organisation

“A person or group of persons who administers, witnesses, abets or aids the solemnization of a same sex marriage or civil union, or supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.” Full text.

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