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More than 60 people arrested at same-sex wedding in Nigeria

FILE PHOTO: Men charged with public displays of same sex affection outside a Nigerian court (REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Men charged with public displays of same sex affection outside a Nigerian court (REUTERS)

Nigerian police raided an alleged gay wedding, which is illegal in the country, and arrested 67 people, officials said on Tuesday.

The arrests were made in southern Delta state's Ekpan town about 2am local time on Monday at a wedding, state police spokesman Bright Edafe claimed.

Africa's most populous nation's anti-gay laws includes a prison term of up to 14 years for those convicted, and bans gay marriage, same-sex relationships, and membership of gay rights groups.

The laws have frequently been condemned by the international community and human rights’ groups.

Police in Delta stormed a hotel in Ekpan where the alleged wedding was being held and initially arrested 200 people, Mr Edafe told reporters.

Later, 67 of them were detained after initial investigations, he said.

Speaking at a police station where those arrested were being paraded, he said: “We saw two suspects, and there is a video recording where they were performing their wedding ceremony.

“We are in Africa and we are in Nigeria. We cannot copy the Western world because we don't have the same culture."

Activists have accused Nigerian police of using anti-LGBT laws to carry out mass arrests that sometimes include straight people, including in 2017 when more than 40 people were arrested for allegedly being gay.

Amnesty International's Nigeria office condemned the arrests and called for “an immediate end to this witch-hunt".

“In a society where corruption is rampant, this law banning same sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail of people," Isa Sanusi, the organisation's director in Nigeria, told The Associated Press.

In a broadcast by police, one of those arrested said they had been at the hotel for another engagement, while another said he was arrested simply for how he was dressed.

“On my way going to the event, police attacked me and took me to the police station," he said.

“They said I have committed an offence while dressed like this but I don't know if cross-dressing is against the constitution of the land."

Nigeria is one of a growing list of African countries that have enacted laws criminalising same-sex relationships, the latest of which is Uganda, where a newly-signed law carries a death penalty in some instances.