A challenge to Nigeria’s newest anti-gay legislation has been dismissed, on the grounds that the plaintiff is straight and thus has no legal standing.
In May 2013, Nigerian legislators passed a bill strengthening its already harsh anti-LGBT laws. Even before President Goodluck Jonathan signed it in early January 2014, straight ally Joseph Teriah Ebah filed a lawsuit to have the law overturned, calling it a violation of Nigeria’s constitutionally protected rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The case was delayed three times by Justice Abdul Kafarati before he threw it out on October 22. According to Gay Star News, Kafarati said, “This is a fundamental right action and the applicant must show that he has suffered from the action of the defendant or is about to suffer an injury.
“The applicant in this case has no locus standi to sue on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community.
“In the final analysis, the case is accordingly struck out.”
Teriah’s lawyer Mike Enahoro Ebah, who is also his brother, told press, “The court didn’t make any pronouncement on the substantive case on its merit. It only considered the Federal Government’s preliminary objection and resolved that though the fundamental right enforcement procedure rules 2009, particularly its preamble which denotes locus/capacity to sue, to the applicant (Teriah) on public spirited litigation, such provision is in conflict with the constitution.
“In view therefore, the court struck down the suit on ground of capacity to sue. He claimed Teriah isn’t personally injured by the law.”
However, the law could just as easily be used to imprison a straight ally such as Teriah—anyone who registers, operates, or participates in gay clubs, societies, or events can be sentenced to up to ten years behind bars.
Speaking to GSN, Nigerian filmmaker Elizabeth Funke Obisanya pointed out a problem with the judge’s ruling: “Personally, I think it’s entrapment as the law clearly states that anyone can file this claim, and the LGBTI community are now illegal so would it even be heard and come to court? Would they not be arrested?”
According to AllAfrica, Teriah declared in his court filing that he is “a happily married man with a son…currently working with the Department for Works and Pension under the employment of the British Government,” and “over the years I have maintained and continue to maintain close relationship with relatives, Nigeria Citizens schooling, working and doing businesses both in the UK and in Nigeria which inevitably gives me insight into worrisome plight and predicament, the recently enacted Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013, has brought to bear on these citizens.”
Further, he declared “That I know as a fact that the protection from discrimination of these Nigerians on the basis of sex, community or circumstance of their birth has always been in the constitution of Nigeria.
“That I verily believe that the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 is the legalization of discrimination against Nigerians on the basis of their sex and sexual orientation, the community they belong to and circumstance of their birth.
“That I verily believe that unless these reliefs sought herein are granted, the Federal Government and all its agencies will continue to haunt down, detain, torture, prosecute and discriminate against Nigerians on the basis of their sex, community and circumstance of their birth.
“That I verily believe that it will be in the interest of justice to grant this application.”
Teriah and his brother said that they plan to appeal.