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Nigeria Signs Samoa Agreement triggering Anti-LGBTQI+ Panic

By Melanie Nathan, July 05, 2023


In recent years Africa has seen a trend to heighten anti-homosexuality legislation, especially in East and West African regions, with only few countries decriminalizing, mostly in the Southern part of Africa. Nigeria has one of the worst anti-Homosexuality laws with a fervent anti LGBTQI+ climate, especially since the passage of their new Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013. Now ten years later Nigeria has ratified the Somoa Agreement triggering controversy and confusion, when it was suggested that it carried pro-LGBTQI+ conditions, causing a significant stir and outcry among Nigerian clerics, rights activists, and Civil Society Organizations, all furious that the federal government signed. But was this nothing more than a grandstand and an opportunity to further stir anti-gay sentiment in the country?


The Samoa agreement, officially signed on 15 November 2023, is the overarching framework for EU relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.  The new partnership agreement serves as the new legal framework for EU relations with 79 countries, including 48 African, 16 Caribbean and 15 Pacific countries Around 2 billion people are covered by the agreement.

 

The agreement seeks to strengthen the capacity of the EU and the ACP countries to address global challenges together. It lays down common principles and covers the following six priority areas:

  • democracy and human rights

  • sustainable economic growth and development

  • climate change

  • human and social development

  • peace and security

  • migration and mobility

 

The agreement includes a common foundation at ACP level combined with three regional protocols for Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific with a focus on the regions’ specific needs.

 

On 20 July 2023, the EU Council greenlighted the signature and provisional application of the partnership agreement, as the new legal framework for the next twenty years, succeeding the Cotonou agreement.

 

The agreement reportedly has some clauses that compel underdeveloped and developing nations to support the rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, termed by its press as “agitations for recognition”, as condition for getting financial and other supports from advanced societies.

The Nigerian press reports that the “agreement is gradually gaining traction, despite opposition by many countries that cherish Islamic and Christianity values, in addition to the sensitivity of their cultures.”


Indeed these journalists reflect the taboo and abhorrence of the Nigerian populace, and that is the country conditions climate Nigerians must face, where harsh anti-LGBT laws incite and license violence by state and non-state actors alike.


Information about the ratification of the deal by Nigeria came to public knowledge on Monday, July 1, when the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu confirmed the development at a reception organized by the European Union (EU) in Abuja.


But when contacted yesterday, Bagudu's media assistant, said the documents signed by the federal government, which the Minister of Budget made reference to during the reception by the EU, were strictly for economic development of Nigeria.


He said nowhere in the documents were LGBT or same sex marriage mentioned even remotely, and emphatically stating that it would be wrong for anyone to imply that Nigeria had accepted those tendencies.


He insisted that what Bagudu signed was in relation to $150 billion trade component.


DAILY TRUST reports that a Lagos State based lawyer and Chairman, Human and Constitutional Rights Committee, African Bar Association (AfBA), Sonnie Ekwowusi, had written an article raising the alarm.

 

Ekwowusi said that the development is “nauseating, occurring despite several meetings held with Nigerian officials, and memoranda sent to them.” He questioned the judgement of the Nigerian officials in proceeding to sign the Samoa Agreement: “The signing of the Agreement by Nigeria constitutes a threat to the sovereignty of Nigeria and Africa. It further debases our democracy.”


"I can wager that neither Minister Atiku Bagudu nor the Nigerian officials or diplomats who signed the Samoa Agreement on our behalf, understand the import of the agreement to Nigeria's sovereignty, let alone the destructive impact of the Agreement in Nigeria. This explains why many African bodies including the AfBA have condemned the agreement and respectfully urged African countries not to sign it.”


"Not infrequently, Nigerian officials in Geneva, New York, and other places sign international agreements or treaties over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with little or no knowledge of their contents," Ekwowusi said.


He further queried: "Were the Nigerian officials who signed the offensive Samoa Agreement representing their own interests or the interests of the Nigerian people? Having refused to sign the Agreement earlier, why did Nigeria change its mind and proceed to sign the Agreement?"


He also said that apart from Nigeria, 34 other African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries, including the Republic of Benin, Senegal, Liberia, Botswana, Burundi, Jamaica, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia, Namibia, Grenada, Eritrea, Malawi, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the Republic of Maldives, Mauritania, the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Palau, Saint Lucia, the Republic of Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Kingdom of Tonga, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and Tuvalu, “also refused to sign the LGBT Agreement.”


"In fact, on that fateful November 15, 2023, Nigeria not only refused to sign the LGBT Agreement but was conspicuously absent in Samoa on the day of the signing. Frustrated by the refusal of these 35 countries to sign the Agreement, the European Union issued a significant threat dated November 24, 2023," he said.

He said that the signing of the Samoa Agreement was completely unacceptable, and Nigeria must undo the damage, by immediately withdrawing from “the LGBT agreement.”


He also urged the National Assembly to invite the Nigerian officials who signed the agreement to explain why they did so.


An official of the vehemently homophobic Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), said that the council's stance on same sex marriage or LGBT remained unchanged. Abubakar Akande, who is the Administrative Secretary of the council, said that though they were invited and attended the meeting in March this year, it was not for them to ratify or oppose the draft shared with them. He said that the 403-page document containing 104 articles was given to the Legal Director of the NSCIA, and that there was no same sex marriage in the draft.


"We (NSCIA) would not welcome such agreement. Our stance remains the same since the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. We cannot agree to what is against the injunction of our Creator, Allah, on this matter, and which also disrespects Nigeria's sovereignty," he said.


On his part, the Ameer (leader), Abuja Muslim Forum (AMF), Alhaji Abdulrazaq Ajani, said that the African civil society organizations (CSOs), which the AMF is a part of, had met top government officials and members of the two chambers of the National Assembly, especially the chairmen of the relevant committees in the House of Representatives, and also the administrative leadership of the legislators. He said they rejected the move completely.


When contacted yesterday, Rep. Rabiu Yusuf, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocols, and Agreements, said that the Samoa Agreement had not been brought before the National Assembly for consideration. "To the best of my knowledge, nothing has happened in the National Assembly regarding the Samoa Agreement," he said.


Speaking with Daily Trust Wednesday night, a coalition of some African CSOs said that it will be a huge disappointment for Nigeria and its citizens, if it turns out to be true that the deal was signed, and that it is toxic to the moral standing of the citizens of Nigeria.

 

Barrister Richard Kakeeto, a Kenyan lawyer with Family Watch International, Africa Region, told Daily Trust that Africa was counting on Nigeria when it decided not to sign the Samoa Agreement, initially. "Many African countries, people of goodwill, were hoping that Nigeria will remain in that situation of not signing and probably even withdrawing from the Samoa Agreement totally.


"However, we have received information that on the 28th day of June 2024, the Ambassador of Nigeria in Brussels was given a go-ahead but we don't know who signed the Samoa Agreement.


"As a result, Nigeria has committed itself to the human rights agenda of the European Union that involves the mainstreaming of sexual and reproductive health and rights, a term or a euphemism that is used to talk about abortion on demand, the sexualization of our children through comprehensive sexuality education, and the proliferation of reproductive sexual and reproductive health services, including hormones to sustain the homosexual lifestyle and transgender practices.” (Note the language that conveys deep misunderstanding in Nigeria.)


The misinformation persists in this statement: "The word LGBTQI+ that Nigerians have been contesting is now part of our law because Nigeria has decided to sign it. So, Nigerians should be very bitter with what is going on. They should challenge their legislators and policy makers to explain why they chose to commit to this dangerous agreement," Kakeeto said.


On her part, Mrs. Omoye Olaye, Media Coordinator, World Council for Health (WCH) International and Foundation for African Cultural Heritage (FACH), said the federal government must rescind the deal.

"Our stand is very clear. Whoever signed on behalf of Nigerians needs to apologize to Nigerians. But we need more than the apology. We need Mr. President, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to rescind that signature.


"All he (Tinubu) needs to do is to apologize on Nigeria's behalf very nicely and tell them that the truth is we have not signed. We are withdrawing from the ACP EU Treaty. That is all we ask the President to do. That is all we will accept. Anything less than that will not be accepted," she said.


The budget minister pointed out the inaccuracies and misinformation when noting: “Adebiyi said Ekwowusi's article was misleading: "The article does not represent the content of the Samoa Agreement signed by Nigeria. The Articles 2.5 and 29.5 cited made no mention of LGBT rights but rather 29.5 guarantees "support [for] universal access to sexual and reproductive health commodities and health care services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs", he said.


"Article 2.5 states that: "The parties shall systematically promote a gender perspective and ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed across all policies. I fail to see how these articles imply the protection of LGBT rights. Please, note that this is a negotiated agreement among the 27 EU countries and 79 OACPS, which is subject to domestic laws. All 27 EU countries and 74 of the 79 OACPS have signed. Nigeria was the 73rd to sign last Friday, 28th June, in Brussels.


PREMIUM TIMES UNDERTOOK A FACT-CHECK: Are there LGBT clauses in Samoa Agreement Nigeria signed – Reports as follows:

 

On Thursday, Daily Trust reported concerns by sections of the Nigerian religious and civil society communities over clauses that mandate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights in the $150 billion Samoa Agreement signed by the Nigerian government on 28 June. The newspaper’s report premised on an opinion article by Sonnie Ekwowusi, a Lagos-based lawyer, was amplified by other news platforms such as Business Day, Vanguard and The Cable. The reports attracted a backlash against the federal government as critics criticized the government for downgrading the country’s moral values in exchange for Western loans.


However, the Nigerian government, in a statement issued by Mohammed Idris, the minister of information and national orientation, on Thursday evening, said the agreement was signed after “extensive reviews and consultations by the Interministerial Committee, convened by the Federal Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning (FMBEP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ).”


Mr Idris added that the government ensured that “None of the 103 Articles and Provisions of the Agreement contravenes the 1999 Constitution as amended or the laws of Nigeria and other extant Laws.”


The Nigerian government signed the agreement seven months after it was formally signed in Samoa.The government said it delayed its consent to allow it to carry out a thorough review and ensure no clause in the agreement contravenes Nigerian laws.


In a document seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the Nigerian government made declarations against 13 articles in the signed agreement. For instance, the Nigerian government, in its declaration concerning Article 9.2, which borders on Human rights, democracy and the rule of law, noted that the Nigerian Constitution has provisions on human rights.


PREMIUM TIMES reviewed the 172-page document to find out whether it contains LGBT clauses as claimed by Daily Trust and other newspapers. Mr Ekwowusi, whose opinion article formed the basis of the newspaper’s report, claimed some articles of the agreement systematically legalize LGBT.


“Certain Articles of the Agreement, especially Articles 2.5 and 29.5 legalise LGBT, transgenderism, abortion, teen sexual abuse, and perversity in African countries,” the Lagos-based lawyer who doubles as the Chairman of Human and Constitutional Rights Committee, African Bar Association (AfBA), wrote in his article published by Daily Trust on 3 July. Mr Ekwowusi’s interpretations of these articles contrast with what we found in the agreement document reviewed by our reporter. “The Parties shall systematically promote a gender perspective and ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed across all policies,” article 2.5 of the agreement reads without a mention of any sexual orientation as claimed by Mr Ekwowusi.


Similarly, the lawyer slipped in his interpretation of article 29.5: “The Parties shall support universal access to sexual and reproductive health commodities and healthcare services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs.” Contrary to the lawyer’s claims amplified by the newspapers, there is no mention of LGBT in the article above.


According to the reviewed document and EU press statements, the Samoa agreement focused on addressing global challenges.


Its objectives aim to contribute to achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In one of its press statements, the EU highlighted the priority areas of the agreement to include human rights, democracy and governance, peace and security; human and social development, inclusive, sustainable economic growth and development, environmental sustainability and climate change; and migration and mobility.


“PREMIUM TIMES understands that there was a series of negotiations before the agreement was finalized – the Nigerian government’s press statement issued last year and another EU press statement confirmed this.”


Emphasising that the parties will commit to promote, protect and fulfil all human rights, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural, the EU, in the press statement, noted that “some ACP states were reluctant to see the foundation agreement mention sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBTI rights) – an issue on which there are also differences among EU Member States.”


In the statement, the EU referred to the provision of Article 36.2 of the agreement when it says: “As a matter of compromise, the parties will commit to the implementation of existing international agreements – notably the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action on sexual and reproductive health and rights, the Beijing Platform on gender equality and their follow-up.”

However, it grumbles that the above wordings “falls short of the EU negotiators’ ambitions.”

PREMIUM TIMES understands that LGBT clauses were contained in the initial draft of the Samoa Agreement, but protests by some member states forced the EU to abolish the clauses in the final document.


This was evident when the EU, in another document, said it welcomes the commitment to promote universal human rights without discrimination based on any ground “but regrets that the Agreement fails to mention explicitly that discrimination could be based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The EU went ahead to plead with parties to “avoid any discrimination based on sexual orientation and to put an end to the criminalization and punishment, including the death penalty, of LGBTI people…”


Revealing the truth and that the hoopla and confusion created in Nigeria is nothing but another opportunity to attack LGBTQI+ people, likely to cause another wave of heightened violence: It is evident that the EU subscribes to the idea of LGBT rights and wants to co-opt member states of the Samoa Agreement into protecting the rights of LGBT people. But protests by some member states, including Nigeria, forced it to omit it in the new document uploaded on the EU’s database on 22 December 2023. When the document was uploaded, Nigeria had yet to sign the agreement, which, according to the EU, took effect earlier this year and will elapse in the next two decades.


In contrast to what was widely reported in sections of the media, Article 2.2 of the new agreement states that: “Parties reaffirm their commitment to developing friendly relations among nations, based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality among all states, and to refraining from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations (the UN Charter).”


Melanie Nathan, A Country Conditions expert witness for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers from Nigeria and other African countries. nathan@africanHRC.org

CAVEAT: We had to delete the sources because when FB alagorithims picked them up it accused this of trying to divert people to another site - so! Sorry about this - we will create a separate page for sources in due course. We decided the awareness created by this article is more important than citing the sources...


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