Activists worried Nigerian senate trying to outwit them on anti-gay bill

Published: October 17, 2011

Human rights activists are worried about the lack of official information from the Nigerian Senate about the progress of the controversial anti-gay bill.

So far two dates, October 25 and October 31 have been leaked out as the days set for the public hearing of the bill but neither of the dates have been verified officially. To date even a call for a public hearing on the bill has not been published in the press, an unusual situation under normal circumstances.

Activists believe the lack of a specific officially verified date is a tactic by Senate officials to wrong-foot activists and any plans they may have for the public hearing.

Olumide Makanjuola- Director of Program of the Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) based in Lagos said “I will not be surprised if we read from the press, the same way we read about the bill, that the public hearing happened and the senate passed the bill. This might be a trick to speedily pass the bill at the senate without intervention of human rights activists.”

The bill is currently being scrutinized by the senate’s committees on Human rights and Judicial Matters, Health and Culture and Tourism. The committees are expected to review the bill and provide recommendation to the house at the third reading.

Under Nigerian law, a committee scrutinizing a bill has the discretion to call for a public hearing on the bill. Such a hearing is meant to afford the public a better understanding of the implication of the bill and assesses how the affected population will react to the provisions. The committee is however not obliged to call for such a hearing.

In July 2011, a bill for an act to prohibit same-sex marriages in Nigeria was introduced into the upper chamber of the Nigeria parliament- the Senate. Information about the bill was only made public earlier this month after it went through its second reading.

At the second reading, the Senate President, David Mark passed the bill to the aforementioned Senate committees which are expected to review the bill and provide recommendations to the house at the third reading.

If the Senate passes the bill into law, the bill will have to be sent to the lower chamber, the House of Representatives. The House will go through the same process as the Senate. If passed, the bill will be sent to the President for his assent.

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