Most Nigerians are familiar with the story of how a birthday party was raided by men of the Nigerian police in the Egbeda area of Lagos in 2018.
Those who haven’t heard the story will at least recall the phrase – They didn’t caught me – screamed by James Brown, one of the arrested victims in the viral video of the raid.
James Brown Obialor who goes by the handle @wf_jamesbrown on Instagram has fashioned out a career for himself from the fame of the video. James Brown, now a popular Nigerian cross-dresser and social media personality, boasts of over a hundred thousand followers on Instagram. But for most other victims of the raid, the story is different. Some have given heartbreaking accounts of how they were tortured by the police during their time in detention, lost their jobs, abandoned by family and fallen into depression.
The arrest of 57 suspected gay men in Egbeda, Lagos
On the 26th day of August 2018, around 2 am in the morning, men of the Nigerian Police Force raided a birthday celebration hosted at Kelly Ann Hotel and Suites in Egbeda, Lagos and arrested 57 men.
Those arrested include a driver who was in the premises to deliver food for the party, dancers who were invited to provide entertainment, other hotel guests who were just having dinner and drinks in the premises and the guests of the birthday celebration.
Some female guests of the birthday party were initially arrested with the men but later released and allowed to go. The 57 men were tagged “homosexuals” and paraded. They were later detained at the Ikoyi Prison for several weeks where they were allegedly tortured.
As the matter proceeded to court, it took the help of several human rights activists and nonprofit organizations to get the men released from detention as the court case moves ahead.
Police said they had acted on some intelligence that a “homosexual initiation” was going on at a location in Egbeda.
Bail and court processes
Through the help of several activists, lawyers and human rights organisations, the magistrate court granted bail to the defendants. Some of them were released earlier than others and spent only a few weeks in prison. Some others spent up to three months in detention before they were released.
The men were initially accused of attending meetings of unlawful societies and belonging to a confraternity at the Magistrate Court but the charge was later changed to “public show of same-sex amorous relationships with each other in hidden places within said Kelly Ann hotel…” at the Federal High Court.
The men faced parallel prosecution in two courts, a situation which has been criticized by many human rights groups with some calling it “a clear abuse of the court process.”
After five court appearances over a 15-month period, the magistrate judge struck out the case from the magistrate court for lack of evidence – a heartening victory for the defendants, their families and friends.
But the case is still active in the Federal High Court. Many court dates have failed to hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch a video of one of the Egbeda 57 victims narrating his ordeal: