Nigerian security personnel have arrested more than 70 young people after accusing them of organising a gay wedding in Gombe state, a security spokesman said on Monday, in the latest raid on the LGBTQ community.
Same-sex marriage is illegal in Nigeria under a 2014 law and Gombe is also one of the majority-Muslim northern states where Islamic Sharia law runs parallel to the federal and state justice system.
Personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), on Saturday, raided a relaxation spot in Gombe, the state capital, and rounded up suspects they accused of having a “gay party” and planned wedding of two male lovers, said Buhari Saad, NSCDC spokesman in Gombe.
“We apprehended 76 suspected homosexuals… while holding a birthday party organised by one of them who was to wed his male bride at the event,” Saad said.
The suspects included 59 men and 17 women, with 21 of the men “wilfully confessing being gay”, he said.
Lawyers for those arrested could not immediately be contacted for comment or confirmation.
The would-be groom was arrested while the bride-to-be fled along with other guests, the official said.
“We will charge them to court to answer for their actions once an investigation is concluded,” Saad said.
Homosexuality is punishable by death under Sharia in northern Nigeria, although that sentence has never been enforced.
In 2014 Nigeria passed new legislation outlawing same-sex marriages and the promotion of civil unions.
Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act carries penalties of up to 14 years in jail for anyone confirmed to be in a gay union.
Saad declined to say whether the suspects would be charged under Sharia or a common law court.
Security personnel have raided several suspected gay weddings across northern Nigeria in recent years but none of those arrested have been convicted.
In December last year 19 men and women in their 20s were arrested in northern Nigeria’s largest city of Kano by Sharia police called Hisbah on charges they organised a gay wedding.
The suspects were however admonished and released without being taken to court.