Beginning Monday 30th November to Friday 4th December, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) will arrive on a trade mission visit to The Law Society of England and Wales, in what will be the first of its kind. That is a feat to reach for both and I welcome such partnership.
But then, thoughts whirl in my head; where is the similarity? What is the focus? What lessons could they learn from each other? And above all, is justice on same balance in these
countries and what will the NBA take back home?
While their objectives are focused mainly on trade and business, it is most disheartening when one thinks that Nigeria, as a prominent member of the United Nation and thereby bound by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should by all means possible, defend its citizens and provide an enabling environment for the peaceful, comfortable and acceptable co-habitation of all regardless of their differences; be it religion, sex or sexuality, race, tribe or otherwise; but such is not the case. But Nigeria does not stop at that, it also does not uphold the African Charter on Human and People's Right. The proposed law violates Nigeria's commitments under international human rights law. These commitments include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Nigeria acceded without reservations in 1993, and which protects the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association .
Rather, Nigeria is busy targeting people of different sexual orientation and, in this modern century, imposing even new laws to suppress a sect of human beings and deny them of their basic rights of freedom of association. These laws are not in themselves backward, they impose fear only comparable to the lives of slaves thus, LGBT people are in live in what can only be referred to as emotional slavery.
It is time we will start engaging organisations from developing countries like the Law Society of England and Wales, who find a common ground to do business with Nigeria, its government, groups, or other legal bodies in Nigeria to start looking at the human rights record of Nigeria, especially of minorities like the LGBT and how they can be protected.
As a Nigerian and a gay man, I find it completely appalling that the freedom I enjoy living in a country like United Kingdom is not available to me back in the country I was born. It is specifically disturbing to think and know that if I should step into my country, my life could be shaking on a balance; arrested or not. Some of my friends have had to shorten their trips, or jump on the plane with nothing, go into hiding and even have their properties or destroyed.
I will therefore be using this opportunity to ignite a dialogue, that the respected Law Society of England and Wales, lend their voice and encourage their friends from Nigeria to do the right thing to pursue and uphold justice for the many men and women like me who are in fear both in and outside Nigeria. The Lawyer has that one primary objective: to see that justice is always upheld; to see that the voiceless is represented. And this applies to the many young men in Nigeria undergoing one prosecution or other at the moment just because they are gay. The time is here; and these have to be effected because Nigeria violates the opening of its own constitution which grants equal rights and existence to the citizens and the lawyers who uses this laws at court, should and must reverse to interpreting them well and justly.