NIGERIA: House Passes Same-sex Marriage Prohibition Bill

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 Offenders risk 14 year jail term  Seeks suspension of  $40m internet surveillance

In spite of threats of sanctions  from some western nations,  the House of Representatives yesterday passed into law a bill seeking to prohibit marriage contracts and civil unions entered between persons of same gender in Nigeria.

The passage of the bill means that such marriage contracts are illegal and shall not be recognised in the country. Those who indulge in such practices under any guise shall not be entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.

The lower chamber took the bold step when it adopted the report of its relevant committees  on the bill at the Committee of the Whole.

Under the new law, marriage contracts or civil unions entered between persons of  same gender by virtue of a certificate issued by a foreign country shall not be recognised in Nigeria.

Similarly, any benefits accruing from such marriages contracted abroad shall not be enforced by any court of law in Nigeria.

A section of the legislation  states as follows: “ Marriage or civil union entered between persons of same gender shall not be solemnised in any place of worship such as the church and mosque or any other place in Nigeria.

“Only marriage contract between a man and a woman under Islamic Law, Customary Law and Marriage Act is valid in Nigeria.

“The registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, their sustenance, processions and meetings are hereby prohibited. The public show of same-sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly is hereby prohibited.”
Besides, the law provides appropriate punishment for breaches. Henceforth, persons who enter into a same gender marriage or civil union contract commit an offence and would be jointly liable on conviction to a term of 14 years imprisonment each.

On the other hand, any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations, or directly or indirectly makes a public show of same sex amorous relationship commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of ten (10) years imprisonment.

Similarly, any person or group of persons that witness, screens, shields, aids and abets  the solemnisation of same sex marriage contract or civil union or supports the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.

The law provides that the High Court of a state or the Federal Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction to entertain matters arising from the breach of these provisions.
It is expected that the Senate will consider the same legislation and concur with the House before the law will be transmitted to President Goodluck Jonathan for his assent.
Also, the House yesterday asked the federal government to suspend its  $40million internet communications  monitoring project.

It resolved to conduct an investigation into the contract for the project which was allegedly awarded  to two foreign firms early this year.

The resolution came on the heels of a motion brought before the House on the allegations that the contract did not follow due process.

Chairman, House Committee on Information and Communication Technologies, Hon. Ibrahim Shehu-Gusau, who sponsored a motion, alleged that the contract flouted the due process and neither complied  with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 nor  the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

The lawmakers also alleged  that the contract if allowed to stand could amount to a breach of the right of citizens  to privacy as  guaranteed in Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution.

Shehu-Gusau urged  the House to prevail on the  federal government to   suspend all actions on the controversial  contract pending the outcome of the investigation to be conducted  the House.

The motion received  unanimous support and was  adopted while  the matter has been referred to the House  Committees  on Information Communication Technology, Human Rights and Justice. The committees are expected  to conduct  the  investigation within three weeks.

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