Reports falsely claim Nigeria’s approval of Samoa deal legalizes same-sex unions

Screenshot showing false claim, taken on July 8, 2024.” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTg3Nw–/″/>
Screenshot of the false claim, taken on July 8, 2024.

The newspaper is the most influential daily in conservative Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria.

The newspaper reported that Africa’s most populous country had signed a “$150 billion” deal with the EU that included clauses that “force underdeveloped and developing countries to support protests by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities demanding recognition as a condition for receiving financial and other support from developed societies.”

The treaty, named after the Pacific island nation of Samoa where it was announced on November 15, 2023, is commonly known as the “Samoa Agreement.”

Other Nigerian media outlets such as Business Day and Vanguard repeated the reports and shared them with their millions of followers on social media.

These articles sparked sharp criticism of the government, especially in the north of the country.

AFP Fact Check debunked similar claims about the Samoa deal in November 2023.

Disinformation Network

Daily Trust based its claim on an opinion piece written by Lagos-based lawyer Sonni Ekwowussi, who was among the first to reveal that Nigeria supported the Samoa agreement.

“Articles 2.5 and 29.5 legalize LGBT, transsexuality, abortion, teenage sexual abuse, and perversion in African countries,” Ekwowusi claims.

“The signing of the Agreement by Nigeria is a threat to the sovereignty of Nigeria and Africa. It further devalues ​​our democracy.”

Daily Trust reported that the government signed the agreement in secret, despite “global opposition.” The deal came to light when Budget and Economic Planning Minister Atiku Bugudu announced it at an event organized by the EU in the capital, Abuja, on July 1, 2024.

The Daily Trust article sparked viral claims on social media about the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Nigeria and became a trending topic, with keywords such as “Muslim-Muslim” and “Samoa agreement”.

Republishing a screenshot of the article, government critic Mahdi Shehu wrote on X: “May homosexuality, lesbianism and child abuse become a permanent habit among them, may it permeate their children, grandchildren, until the last generation. May they die red-handed.”

Screenshot showing Shehu X’s post from July 8, 2024. ” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTk0Nw–/”/>

Screenshot showing X Shehu’s post from July 8, 2024.

Muslim leaders from the north of the country criticized the decision (see here and here).

Samoa Agreement

The Samoa Agreement is a partnership between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACPS), of which Nigeria is a member.

The 403-page document contains 103 articles and provisions.

According to the European Council, the agreement “will serve as the overarching legal framework for their relations for the next 20 years” (archive here). Priority areas include human rights, democracy and governance, peace and security; human and social development, inclusive, sustainable economic growth and development, environmental sustainability and climate change; and migration and mobility.

It is seen as a role model for strengthening bilateral relations and replaces the Cotonou Agreement signed in June 2000 (archive here).

After seven months of deliberations, the Nigerian government signed the agreement in Brussels on 28 June 2024, joining 72 other OACPS members (archive here).

LGBTQ+ is not legalized

The Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) of 2013 strips the rights of LGBTQ+ people and criminalizes same-sex marriage and civil partnerships (archived here).

Ekwowusi argued that articles 2.5 and 29.5 of the Samoa agreement granted rights to gays.

However, none of the chapters explicitly promote same-sex relationships or even mention them.

While Article 2.5 states that “Parties shall systematically promote a gender perspective and ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed in all policies,” Article 29.5 states that “Parties shall promote universal access to sexual and reproductive health commodities and services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.”

Screenshot of Article 2.5 of the Samoa Agreement, taken on July 9, 2024.” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE1MQ–/″/>

Screenshot of Article 2.5 of the Samoa Agreement, taken on July 9, 2024.

Screenshot of Article 29.5 of the Samoa Agreement, taken on July 9, 2024.” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE0OA–/″/>

Screenshot of Article 29.5 of the Samoa Agreement, taken on July 9, 2024.

Festus Ogun, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer, said he found no details in the written agreement to support the claims.

“I have carefully considered the Samoa Agreement and I do not believe there is anything in the agreement that directly and specifically gives LGBTQ credibility. No agreement can be enshrined as law without an act of parliament,” he told AFP Fact Check.

“Parliament has not repealed the Same-Sex Law and the Nigerian Constitution provides that no treaty shall be enforceable in court unless it is enacted as an Act by the National Assembly.”

Tobi Oluwatoba, former executive director of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), echoed these comments.

“Private morality and public law are separate fields and mixing them is a slippery slope. There is no reference to LGBTQ in the document,” he told AFP Fact Check.

“We should not look for a reason to discriminate against a minority group where, in fact, there is none.”

On the day the Daily Trust article about the deal was published, Information Minister Mohammad Idris denied that the deal committed Nigeria to legalising LGBTQ+ rights (archive here).

He added that the cooperation agreement was signed with reservations.

“Nigeria’s acceptance was accompanied by a statement dated 26 June 2024, clarifying its understanding and the context of the agreement within its jurisdiction, pursuant to which any provision inconsistent with Nigerian law would be null and void,” he said.

Threat of lawsuit

On July 6, the Daily Trust informed readers that the government had threatened to sue the newspaper over the story (archive available here).

In an editorial published a day later, the newspaper said it would “readily apologize to both the government and public opinion for the suspicions” if its interpretation of the agreement turned out to be incorrect (archive here).

While the original article was still available on the website on July 10, Daily Trust said it “also acknowledged the shortcomings in our reporting on this particular case, which were brought to our attention by industry colleagues, and that it would review the matter and take appropriate measures.”