Nigeria will not succumb to pressure from the international community to sign the Gay Rights Bill into law and to abolish the death penalty, Foreign Affairs Minister, Olugbenga Ashiru has said.
Speaking during an interactive session with members of the Diplomatic Corps in Abuja on Friday, Ashiru confirmed that the federal government has been under intense pressure not to sign the anti same-sex marriage bill recently passed by the country’s legislators into law.
While insisting that the two contentious issues will not change until when a proper constitutional amendment is made, the Minister said foreign countries cannot impose their alien culture on Nigerians.
“This thing must be understood because we have been under pressure about this issue of Gay Rights. It is not part of our own culture, you need to understand that. It needs to evolve. Let us get to that stage of understanding that two men can marry, then we will get to the bridge and cross it.
“But please let foreign diplomats educate their various governments that you cannot come overnight and impose values that are not part of our tradition on us. Don’t impose it on us that we must allow it in our constitution.
“If we are talking about democracy, democracy is about free choice, free association you don’t force values on others.“For those who have Gay Rights, even when I look at the population of those countries, those opposing are high in number. In some countries, the churches are against it, why put pressure on Nigeria and other African countries that we must put it (in our laws).
“Respect for human rights of a minute minority cannot be at the expense of the larger societal values, well-being and orientation of the people. Even laws are rooted in culture which must be upheld for the good of the society.
“I therefore appeal to the international community to show a greater understanding of the culture and traditions of our people.“We don’t tell other countries how to live their lives. We don’t impose values on any country. Other countries too should not come and impose their own values on us.
“We don’t oppose any country that has put in its constitution the Gay Rights to allow two men or two women to marry themselves. But for Nigeria and a number of other African countries; it is not part of our culture yet,’’ the Foteign Minsiter said
Ashiru also criticized the United States for criminalizing polygamy which is part of Africa’s culture and tradition while championing Gay Rights which African culture frowns at.
His words, “At times you see hypocrisy in some of these things. I must be frank. If we talk about human rights, how do we apply them? It seems they are being applied to favour some certain groups and not of wider application. There is hypocrisy in this issue of Gay Rights and polygamy”.
According to the Minister, foreign ambassadors and diplomats representing their countries in Nigeria are no longer allowed to comment on political issues in the country, saying such will be viewed as an undue interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs.
He spoke further, “We know in Nigeria we have some of the strongest human rights groups. We also know that foreign missions have been freely supporting them with funding. It is okay. We have no objection.
“But we object when ambassadors conduct activities that are incompatible with their status as diplomats. If ambassadors want to join the human rights groups, they may as well resign to join them, but they cannot use the platform of being a diplomatic agent to interfere in our domestic activities. The Vienna convention states clearly the activities that are incompatible with your functions as an envoy.
“I will want ambassadors to please confine themselves to their traditional duties. If you feel strongly about any issue, come to the foreign ministry, I will receive you. When there are things you want to take up with the government, come to the ministry. Even if you come as a regional body, I will receive you. But for you to go to the media and start talking is incompatible with the status of your office.”
Nigeria is billed to present its human rights report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in October. The Government’s spokesman, Labaran Maku announced last Wednesday that a report is being put together to defend the country’s stand on gay rights and death penalty.
The last time Nigeria presented its human rights report in 2009, 32 issues were raised but Maku, expressed delight that 30 had been successfully addressed in the last four years while the issues of gay rights and death penalty are still pending.
Nigeria’s legislators in May this year, unanimously passed the Anti Same-Sex Marriage Bill now awaiting Presidential assent. The Bill recommends up to 14 year jail term for offenders, collaborators and promoters.