President Goodluck Jonathan’s assent to the bill prohibiting homosexual marriage has not gone down well with a large chunk of the international community, but Canada is first to take action against Nigeria, although other countries have expressed their displeasure on the new law.
The European Union and the US had threatened to review their economic assistance to Nigeria for signing the bill which they had lobbied hard to stop.
It emerged yesterday, that Canada has cancelled a scheduled state visit by President Jonathan, apparently in reaction to the president’s decision to sign the Same s*x Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013 which penalizes homosexual partnerships in the country into law.
The president’s visit to Canada which is at the instance of the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper was scheduled for February.
The cancellation follows the harassment of Nigeria’s diplomatic staff in the Nigerian High Commission in Canada by the homosexual lobby in that country.
The decision to cancel President Jonathan’s state visit to Canada was communicated through the Nigeria High Commissioner to the Supervising Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri who in turn passed on the message to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.
Special Adviser to the President on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati in his reaction, yesterday, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would respond to the development.
The cancellation nonetheless, Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak upheld the president’s action, saying that there was no way homosexual marriages will accelerate the nation’s socio-economic progress.
Calling on the international community to respect the cultural sensibility of Nigerians and other African countries on the issue of same s*x marital relations, Gulak in an interview, yesterday, said that “the hostile reaction of Europeans and the United States to the recent signing into law of the bill that outlaws marriages and s*xual relations between people of the same s*x has not taken into consideration the socio-cultural differences between people of different racial backgrounds, and more importantly the religious beliefs of our people.
“What the anti-gay law has tried to achieve is to protect and promote family values as we know it from the start; we accept that the Europeans have reached the height of their civilization, we are yet to see how marriages between persons of the same s*x will accelerate our own socio-economic and technological advancement of our people.
“We value the bilateral and multilateral relationships between Nigeria and its international partners and we believe that no unnecessary pressure will be brought to bear on us to accept what our people consider to be abhorrent.”
“We are yet to see how this same s*x practice will reduce inequality, reduce the grinding poverty facing our people. Same s*x rights and privileges will not generate employment, enhance health care, improve education and technological growth which is what we need now. We know that those who are into this practice are in the minority, the US and EU should respect the sensibilities of those in the majority who abhor the practice of same s*x relations.
“The law makers deliberated carefully on the bill before passing it and sending it to the president for his assent. We cannot dictate to Europeans on what bills they choose to make; they have been passing legislation to regulate migration of Africans into their countries without any complaints from any other country, some states in America have legalised the use of marijuana for medical purposes, ordinarily we should see that as a welcome development since we have people who grow the weed here, but for the sake of the health of our people, we cannot say what is good for America or Europeans must be good for us.
“I think it is a big distraction for these countries to assume that same s*x marriage is our utmost priority at this stage of our development.
“Nigeria will continue to respect the rights of its citizens but those who want to engage in mercantile promotion of human relations that the society does not accept may be incurring the wrath of the law,” Gulak said.
Canada’s grouse is that more than 30 people have been arrested, since the law was signed on January 7, 2014 and there are worries that more arrests will follow.
Until Jonathan signed the law, prosecution of gay people had largely been centered on the predominantly Muslim north, where gays have long been punished under Sharia law.
Canada does not have substantial economic interest in Nigeria but the country has been wooing Canada to invest in the mining, rail transportation, sea ports reform, education, and infrastructure. Both countries expect trade volume from these sectors to generate over 16 billion dollars in 2015. The relationship between both countries has been buoyant as they have maintained high level dipCanada lomatic contacts.
It will be recalled that in April 2012, Nigeria’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Olugbenga Ashiru visited Ottawa, where he signed the Memorandum of Understanding to establish a Bi-National Commission, which covers four major themes: political relations, commercial relations, security cooperation and development cooperation.