Nigerian police arrested more than 200 people at a wedding on Monday, in one of the biggest mass arrests in recent years targeting the country’s LGBTQ community.
A police spokesperson in the southern Delta state told reporters Tuesday that 67 people will be prosecuted for “allegedly conducting and attending a same-sex wedding ceremony.”
Same-sex relationships are criminalized in Nigeria, and its penal code approves a punishment of up to 14 years in prison for people who are convicted of entering into a same-sex civil union.
In a live broadcast on Tuesday, a police official described the event as evil and “we cannot copy the western world… we are Nigeria and we must follow the culture of this country.”
Behind him were the suspects, some of whom told journalists in the live broadcast that they were not gay and were models and fashion designers.
Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the situation as “a witch-hunt.” It called on Delta state police to release the detained people, who were “arrested and paraded to the media” and to “put an immediate end to this witch-hunt,” in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“In a society where corruption is rampant, the law banning same sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail of people by law enforcement officers and other members of the public. This is unacceptable,” the human rights group added.
Police said a video recording of the wedding party and alleged prohibited substances were obtained during the raid.
“The venue of the illicit event was searched, and the following items were recovered at the scene: one codeine bottle, three cups of refined Canadian loud, five sachets of SK, one sachet of tramadol, four tablets of molly drug, one crusher, gay marriage ceremonial dresses,” a police statement said.
The statement added that police got wind of the event after operatives on routine patrol stopped an attendee late Sunday. “He had claimed to be an actor, the statement said.
“Upon interrogation, he confessed that he is a member of a certain gay club and that he was on his way to join his fellow members for a gay marriage ceremony,” the statement said.
This latest arrest comes five years after 57 men accused of homosexuality were arrested during a police raid on a hotel in Lagos in 2018.