Campaigners say Nigeria is unfit for 2014 Commonwealth Games

By staff writers
6 Aug 2007

Christian and secular human rights campaigners have joined forces to put pressure on the London-based Commonwealth Games Federation over Nigeria's bid for the 2014 games, citing its widely condemned mistreatment of gay people.

"It would not be right for the 2014 Commonwealth Games to be held in Nigeria, given the country's appalling human rights record, including its systematic persecution of lesbian and gay Nigerians," said Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder and leader of the gay Christian group, Changing Attitude Nigeria.

"Nigeria's homophobic oppression is a violation of the Commonwealth Games ethos of equality, humanity, peace, unity, cooperation and understanding. Unless Nigeria radically improves its human rights record, it should be ruled out of consideration as a host for the 2014 Games," added Mr Mac-Iyalla.

Mr Mac-Iyalla was speaking immediately after leading a delegation which met Mike Hooper, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, at the CGF headquarters in Piccadilly, London, on 3 August 2007.

The delegation presented the CGF with an 11-page report setting out why it should reject the bid by the Nigerian city of Abuja to host the 2014 Games.

The report, which is entitled "Abuja's Bid – Sins of Omission", was authored by Mr Mac-Iyalla and Mike Hersee, both members of Changing Attitude Nigeria, the Anglican church pressure group which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.

Mr Hooper agreed to present their report to the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Michael Fennell, later this month.

The final decision on which city will host the 2014 Games will be taken in early November.

As well as Davis Mac-Iyalla and Mike Hersee the delegation to the CGF included Peter Tatchell of the British gay human rights group OutRage!, and the Reverend Stephen Coles, a member of the General
Synod of the Church of England and Vicar of St Thomas', Finsbury Park, London.

"Abuja's bid to be the venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games should be rejected on the grounds of Nigeria's long history of anti-gay discrimination," added Mr MacIyalla.

"Homophobic discrimination violates one of the CGF's core values, equality. Unless Nigeria swiftly calls a halt to the victimisation of LGBT people, Abuja should be ruled out of the running.

"In many Nigerian states, the maximum penalty for sex between mutually consenting adult men in private is 14 years in prison. In states that have introduced Sharia law, it is death by stoning.

"Violence against LGBT people in Nigeria has increased dramatically, in the wake of verbal attacks on gay people by the Anglican Church of Nigeria and attempts by the Nigerian government to introduce sweeping new anti-gay laws. This legislation would have banned same-sex marriage, gay organisations and churches, safer sex advice for gay men, and the advocacy of gay human rights.

Backed by the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, the anti-gay bill only failed because it ran out of legislative time when the general election was called earlierthis year. We fear the bill may be revived. Nigeria is a very threatening, intimidating place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people," added Mr Mac-Iyalla.

Mike Hersee, co-author of the report to the CGF, said: "There will be many lesbian and gay athletes, officials, spectators
and reporters at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. They could be at risk of arrest and violence if the Games go ahead in Abuja.

"The Nigerian government must scrap its anti-gay laws and crackdown on homophobic hate crime in order to ensure that Abuja is a safe, welcoming place for gay and lesbian participants. Without these changes, Nigeria is not a suitable country in which to hold the 2014 Games."

"Other human rights commentators have recently suggested that Abuja's bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games is in conflict with the core values and stated aims of the CGF, but this is the first time a Nigerian organisation has put the case so comprehensively," concluded Mr Hersee.

Davis Mac-Iyalla is visiting the UK until 6 August 2007, after a tour of churches in the US.

"OutRage! is supporting Changing Attitude Nigeria. We urge that Abuja is not be accepted as the host city for the 2014 Commonwealth Games unless the state and federal government agree to improve Nigeria's human rights record, including an end to the state-sanctioned persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Nigerians," said Peter Tatchell.

"Davis has done a magnificent job exposing the victimisation of gay people in Nigeria – a victimisation that is incited and endorsed by the Anglican Church of Nigeria and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola.

"Earlier this year Mr Mac-Iyalla was forced to flee Nigeria and seek exile in a nearby African country, due to threats to kill him.

"These threats were prompted by his public condemnation of homophobic discrimination and violence in Nigeria, and by his public witness as an openly gay Christian.

"Davis is a truly remarkable, courageous man. He is taking a defiant stand in support of gay human rights, despite the serious danger that he could be murdered. We salute him," said Mr Tatchell.

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