Police raided the Vincent Hotel in Weigh Bridge in Owode Onirin, Ikorodu, where the men were arrested for allegedly performing same-sex sexual acts. They are to be arraigned in a Lagos court.
Gay rights activist Bisi Alimi told the BBC the event that was held at the hotel was an awareness program aimed at HIV counseling and testing for the LGBT community in Nigeria.
Confirming the arrest, Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer Olarinde Famous-Cole said, “It is true. About 42 suspected homosexuals were arrested and the hotel has been condoned off while investigation continues. They are in custody of the Lagos State Task Force and will be charged to court soon.”
Tunji, a resident of the area where the arrest was made, told PUNCH, a national newspaper, that police officers stormed the Vincent Hotel at about 3.30 p.m. on Saturday.
“There have been reports that the hotel harbors homosexuals,” he said. “They were there this afternoon when policemen struck. About 40 of them were caught in the act.”
UNAIDS statistics show Nigeria, with about 3.5 million people living with HIV, has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world. There is also a significant increase in the number of men who have sex with men who are living with HIV in Nigeria.
This group faces the highest HIV burden in Nigeria — sex workers were the worst affected before 2013. Men who have sex with men are mostly unable to access the resources provided by Nigeria’s National Council for the Control of AIDS.
This is no surprise as the Nigerian Senate in 2014 made homosexuality illegal when it passed the “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill.” The law allows up to a 14-year jail term for those entering into same-sex marriages or relationships; those witnessing, aiding or abetting LGBT-related activities and the public display of same-sex relationships.
Nigerian police have been clamping down on the LGBT community in recent months.
They arrested 53 people at a motel in the ancient city of Zaria in Kaduna, a state in northwestern Nigeria, on April 15. They were arraigned before a magistrate’s court in Chediya-Zaria on April 19 and charged for “conspiracy, unlawful assembly and belonging to a gang of an unlawful society.”
Sgt. Mannir Nasir, who is prosecuting the men, told the court they were arrested during a purported same-sex marriage at the motel and that the offenses violated Sections 97, 100 and 197(a) of Criminal Procedure Code.