Punch, a Nigerian newspaper, on Monday reported that police in the city of Asaba in Delta State arrested the men who were identified as students at two government-run colleges.
The publication did not report when the arrests took place, but it described the colleges as “a beehive of perverse sexual acts.”
“We had it on good authority that the male students allegedly engaged in anal sex,” Celestina Kalu, a spokesperson for the Delta State Police, told Punch. “The suspects, upon interrogation, made useful statements to the police while investigations are ongoing.”
The Delta State Police did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment.
The reported arrests coincide with reports that police in Lagos State arrested two teenagers who were “having homosexual sex.”
Bisi Alimi, a gay Nigerian advocate who received asylum in the U.K. in 2008, told the Blade on Monday that police in Borno State over the last three weeks “have been arresting innocent citizens on the allegation of homosexuality.”
“This is becoming a crisis,” said Alimi, referring to the reported arrests.
Nigeria is among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
Then-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 signed a law that punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison. The statute also bans membership in an LGBT advocacy group.
President Muhammadu Buhari in March defeated Jonathan in the country’s presidential election.
Secretary of State John Kerry in July raised Nigeria’s LGBT rights record with Buhari during a meeting in Washington.
State Department spokesperson Mark Toner acknowledged to the Blade on Monday during his daily press briefing that he had seen the reports of the arrests in Delta State. He said the State Department has not “been able to confirm their credibility or their veracity.”
“We obviously take LGBT issues very seriously and it’s something we’ve raised consistently with the Nigerian government,” Toner told the Blade. “But in terms of this specific case we just don’t have any more details.”
The Nigerian government did not return the Blade’s request for comment.
Buhari last month during a celebration of Nigeria’s independence from the U.K. said his country has “all the attributes of a great nation.”
“President Buhari is widely recognized and respected as an exemplary leader on the African continent, and this reputation comes with serious responsibilities,” Jeffrey Smith of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights told the Blade on Monday, referring to the aforementioned comments. “Should this be true, then surely some of those key attributes would be equality and respect for basic human dignity, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity of Nigerian citizens.”