LAGOS, Nigeria; 21 December, 2016
Dr. Reuben Abati, the spokesman to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, delivered the keynote address at the #YHumanRights2016 conference tagged ‘Human Rights, Sexuality and the Law’ organized by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) and Y!/YNaija.com on Wednesday 14 December, 2016.
Abati who spoke on sexuality rights in Nigeria and the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act signed into law by President Jonathan in 2014, stated that he is liberal. According to him: “The Nigerian Constitution recognizes the right of every Nigerian regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or gender.”
When questioned by members of the audience on his role in the passage of the anti-gay bill into law, Dr. Abati maintained that he only acted as a spokesperson. “It was part of my duty to explain government policy. The same-sex bill came as an Act – from the people in the National Assembly. The law does not express my personal opinion – I have no objection to how anyone chooses to live his or her life. I merely carried out my duty as a spokesperson.”
The two-hour event also featured a series of panel discussions by Joy Isi Bewaji, publicist and author; Latasha Ngwube, founder of AboutThatCurvyLife; Osikhena Dirisu (OsiSuave), Beat FM OAP; Jaja Jasper Chinelu, social media commentator and founder of Sperne.com, and Ayokunle Odekunle, a lawyer.
When discussing how technology has enhanced or derailed activism as regards sexuality, Bewaji said, “With technology, I was able to kill my naivety and come to terms with the struggle of women across the world.”
Jaja Chinedum stated that “technology provides an opportunity for solidarity and forming allegiances with other people who are like you and sympathetic to your cause.”
Osikhena Dirisu pushed for the removal of the anti-gay law explaining that “Nigerians need to be more tolerant, and the first step towards this is doing away with the anti-gay law.”
The event which held at Four Points by Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos, closed with the launch of the 2016 Human Rights Violations Report by the Executive Director of TIERs, Olumide Makanjuola.