Monday, April 6, 2015

Nigerian gay rights activist loses asylum battle in the U.K.

Prominent United Kingdom-based Nigerian lesbian and gay rights activist, Aderonke Apata, had her lengthy legal tussle to claim asylum in the country thrown out of the highest court of the land, the Royal Courts of Justice, RCJ, on Wednesday.

Justice John Bowers QC (Queen's Counsel, equivalent of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN) dismissed her appeal, on the grounds of dishonesty, her criminality and that she is not actually a lesbian, even though she might have engaged in same sex relationship and gone further to produce DVDs of herself engaging in lesbianism with her partner, Happiness.

Apata, twice married and mother of two, was told by the judge that he would have to agree with the March 3 submissions of the State lawyer, Andrew Bird, who argued that the ruling and findings of the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) in 2012, are binding on the RCJ, because FTT is the one charged by Parliament with the jurisdiction to make fact findings and also equipped to do so by means of the facility to hear oral evidence and cross- examination. Bowers took sides with the submission , despite Apata's lawyer arguing to the contrary during the said hearing on March 3.

In handing down Wednesday's ruling, which Apata misled activists not to attend, Bowers made reference to Bird's submission that: "The Secretary of State contends that the Claimant has, for 10 years, played the system by repeated and different applications, dishonesty made and that ' she has ... ..made false asylum claims. She has pursued an appeal claiming that she was in a subsisting relationship with an EEA national, when she was not. She overstayed, worked illegally and studied illegally" as the FTT concluded at paragraph 114."

Even though Apata's lawyer had submitted to the court that she faces the risk of persecution and imprisonment if returned to Nigeria, because of last year's Anti- LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transexuals) Law, the judge is of the view that she is not actually a lesbian, and as such, is not covered by the Refugee Convention Article 1A (2). Bowers cited Bird's submission of the FTT ruling, which said, " we have concluded that the (Claimant's) change of image is entirely due to a false claim of lesbian sexuality... ... Despite claiming that she cannot bear to be in a relationship with a man, she has engaged in long-term relationships with Mr. Alima and Mr. Bamidele (both European nationals) and has declared her love and commitment to them openly in letters ... "

Her case on the grounds of Human Rights and fear of persecution were also dismissed, so also was it dismissed on the basis of having a mental illness -- and that she won't get adequate medical treatment in Nigeria, if deported. When The Guardian contacted Apata on Saturday, for her reaction, she didn't reply the correspondence. However, prominent black gay activists, including Davis Mac-Iyalla, have reacted to the ruling after The Guardian contacted them at the weekend.

Mac-Iyalla, an openly gay Nigerian in London, said, "I have always known that asylum is not for everyone, but those who are honest and are at risks should be given protection."

Black Pride's lady Phyl Opoku, also spoke to The Guardian, but was of the view that Apata is, indeed, an activist. Of the ruling, she said, "this is very sad and disappointing," because Apata " has been graceful and very visible in our (LGBT) community.

The Guardian

Related story: Gay Activist confronts Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan on Homophobic Law

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