Over 70 individuals have been detained by Nigerian security authorities in the country’s northeastern region on allegations of holding a same-sex wedding ceremony, an act criminalised under Nigerian law.

The arrests, which occurred on Saturday, the 21st of October, highlight the prevalent discrimination and violence against the LGBT+ community in Nigeria, which has criminalised same-sex marriage since 2014, carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years of imprisonment. 

Buhari Saad, the spokesperson for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Gombe State, explained that the 76 detainees, comprising 59 men and 17 women, were apprehended at a birthday gathering purportedly planned by a man set to marry his partner.


Legal representation for the arrested individuals was unavailable for immediate commentary or verification.

Nigeria has a troubling history of intimidating the LGBTQ+ community, with authorities often disrupting gatherings suspected to be same-sex weddings. Yet, none of those previously arrested have faced convictions. In a similar event last August, over a hundred men were arrested in southeastern Nigeria.

Amnesty International has denounced these actions as a “witch-hunt” and pointed out that in a country rife with corruption, laws against same-sex relationships are frequently weaponised for harassment, blackmail, and extortion by law enforcement and the general populace.

In December, 19 young men and women were detained in Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest city, by Hisbah, the Islamic police force. They were accused of organising a gay wedding but were subsequently released without legal repercussions.

Gombe State, the site of Saturday’s arrests, practices Islamic Sharia law alongside federal and state legal systems. Under Sharia law, homosexual acts could be punishable by death, although such a sentence has never been enacted in the region. The NSCDC spokesperson declined to clarify whether the arrested individuals would face charges under Sharia or standard law.