President Goodluck Jonathan enters the second week of his controversial pardon set to contend with a flurry of new issues and criticism from many who are trying to make sense of his reasoning for letting off former army Major, Bello Magaji, convicted and sentenced to five years jail term for sodomy, another name for homosexuality, by a military Court [General Court Martial] in 1996.
Mr. Magaji, a former military police officer attached to the Lagos Garrison Command, was convicted for serial homosexual intercourse with four students of the Army Cantonment Boys Secondary School in Ojo Cantonment in Lagos. The teenagers were Mohammed Abubakar, Joseph Unigbe, Emmanuel Ilagoh, and Isaac Jonah, according to court records obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.
The documents spoke of how Mr. Magaji intoxicated the young men, all from poor background, with alcohol, making them dizzy and then forcing them to have homosexual intercourse. He would then offer them token financial inducement to meet family obligations.
One of the teenagers recalled that: “He said I shouldn’t worry that I should go and bath. After my bath he gave me N1500.00k and said I should give Oscar N500.00k for bringing me. Then when I came out I gave Oscar N500.00k and it remained N1000.00k. Out of the N1000.00k Oscar collected N100.00k and it remained N900.00k. From the N900.00k, I bought things paid small small credit I was owing and bought school uniform for myself.”
Mr. Bello Magaji whose reasons for making the list remains puzzling, was one of about a dozen convicts that earned President Jonathan’s pardon Tuesday after a Council of State meeting in Abuja along with the president’s disgraced former boss, Mr. DSP Alamieyeseigha, a one-time governor in Bayelsa State where the president served as his deputy.
Mr. Magaji’s pardon, coming at a time that legislative and religious institutions in the country are bracing for a stormy confrontation with the local and international gay and lesbian communities is bound to shock many observers of the Jonathan presidency.
In November 2011, the Nigerian Senate passed a stunning anti-gay legislation which criminalizes homosexuality and gay marriage with a 14-year jail term. Although the move drew sharp international rebuke from both western and American political leaders, the Senate President, Mr. David Mark, in February this year, went ahead to defend the move, promising a delighted conference of Catholic bishops that the senate will lead the fight against homosexuality in the country. Mr. Mark was however at the meeting where Mr.Magagi got his pardon but was not on record to have uttered a voice against the move.
A similar bill to prohibit gay marriage also popularly passed through a second reading in the House of Representatives last november. House Majority leader, Mulikat Akande-Adeola (PDP-Oyo), said the proposed law will return sanity to the institution of marriage. If both law chambers pass the bill, Mr. Jonathan will be forced to sign a law that is bound to test his will against the temper of the international community.
The mood of the Supreme Court regarding the rights of homosexual people was best rendered in the case of the same Mr. Magaji when in their appeal ruling in 2008, they characterized the practice as a “beastly, barbaric and bizarre offence.” A panel of five Justices lead by Justice Niki Tobi subsequently threw the appeal of the former military police major to the trashcan and affirmed his five-year jail term.
Justice Niki Tobi also proposes, in his judgement that “Carnal knowledge with the male sex is against the order of nature and here, nature should mean God and not just the generic universe that exists independently of mankind or people.” The order of nature is “carnal knowledge with the female sex” he argued in the judgement.
With the Supreme Court, the National Assembly, and the religious order already walking a direct route from the president on the matter, he has, it appears, lost the court of popular morality to lean on for his queer decision on the Magaji pardon. As the Supreme Court records indicated, but failed to developed in depth, Mr. Magaji was not only engaged in gay sex which would have been consensual, but actually he was engaged in a homosexual rape.
“The common evidence of Emmanuel and Joseph is that they were asked to drink a bottle each of small stout which intoxicated them; it was in their state of intoxication that the appellant performed the dirty act of sodomy on Emmanuel, and others, the Supreme Court report narrated.
The Court report offers, in many of its lines, chilling narratives of Mr. Magaji as a sex pervert. The following testimony of one of the teenagers project a horrifying experience, one that will worry many who are trying to understand President Jonathan’s mind with respect to this particular pardon.
“When I went inside, I saw Joseph with Oga Magaji. Then Oga asked me my name, and then I told him my Joseph (sic) said yes so he asked Joseph if he knew me and Joseph said yes so he said I should go inside and sit down. Then when we went inside, I saw Mohammed and he said it has been long he was inside, he overslept. Then I asked Joseph the time they came there. Joseph said it has been long, that Mohammed took a bottle of Gulder that’s why he went asleep.
“By then, Sam came in, brought a bottle of small stout and gave me to drink, but I said I didn’t want to drink because I was not used to it, but he said if I don’t drink it I wouldn’t work for Oga, he will not accept me. Then he opened the small stout for me. I took a little out of it and it was bitter, I couldn’t take it, so I gave it to Joseph Unigbe who took the rest.
“After 5 minutes my eyes were turning me Joseph said me and Mohammed should go inside the bedroom to take a bath so that our eyes will stop turning us we accepted took our bath and when we wanted to put our cloths on, Joseph brought out one Army singlet, shirt and nicker, and a night gown and he said we should put them on we asked him why. He said we could not go home that patrol will hold us, that we had to sleep till the following day so we accepted and put them on. Then he showed us the guest room that we should go inside that that is where we were going to sleep.
“All of us went inside the guest room, suddenly, Joseph went outside saying he was going to collect something from the sitting room. When he went out, just immediately he went out then Maj. Magaji came inside the room.”
Homosexuality, according to Wikipedia, “is romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or sexual activity between members of the same sex or gender. As an orientation, homosexuality refers to “an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectionate, or romantic attractions” primarily or exclusively to people of the same sex.
Historically, the term has evolved but today members of the community are referred to as Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons.
Gay sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria, both among male and female same-sex partners. In the 12 northern states that have adopted Shari‘a law, maximum punishment is death by stoning. In the southern states, the maximum punishment is 14 years imprisonment.