Nigerian activists react to Commonwealth games decision

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A gay rights group who highlighted Nigeria’s poor record on LGBT rights has said it is disappointed that the country did not win the right to hold the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

In August Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder and leader of the gay Christian group, Changing Attitude Nigeria, met with the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) in London to put their case.

They presented the CGF with an 11-page report setting out why it should reject the bid by the Nigerian city of Abuja.

Last week it was announced that Glasgow will host the Games.

“Like most Nigerians we would have loved such an important international sporting occasion to come to our country,” the group said in a statement.

“Some people may be tempted to accuse us of hypocrisy, as it was CAN that issued a damning report about Abuja’s bid, almost as if determined to undermine Nigeria’s chance of hosting the games.

“In fact, our disappointment is that the Nigerian government failed to respond to the issues we raised in time for the bidding process.

“We will never know exactly of course as the voting delegates do not normally give their reasons.

“We do know however that more enlightened attitudes to homosexuality are spreading throughout the world. We also know that there was some support for the human rights issues we raised among the voting delegates.”

Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, said: “To be honest, we were not really expecting this unresponsive government to take sufficient remedial action in time.

“We hope however that they have woken up to the fact that they cannot expect that the world will no longer turn a blind eye to brutal injustices and oppressive laws against the ordinary citizens of Nigeria.”

Peter Tatchell of gay human rights group OutRage!, and the Reverend Stephen Coles, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England and Vicar of St Thomas’, Finsbury Park, London, were also part of the delegation to the CGF in August.

Mr Tatchell said:

“While it would have been great for Abuja to host the 2014 Games, sadly Nigeria is not yet ready for this honour, given its sad record of human rights abuses, corruption, election fraud and environmental destruction.

“These human rights abuses include criminalisation, job discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“Holding the 2014 Games in Abuja would have done little to benefit ordinary Nigerians.

“The main beneficiaries would have been Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt business and political elite.

“I hope the Commonwealth Games Federation will now work with Nigeria and other African countries so they can remedy the problems that have, so far, prevented them from hosting the games.

“It is shocking that no African country has ever been awarded the Commonwealth Games. This failing must be rectified, so that the hosting of the event becomes truly inclusive.”

The Commonwealth Games were founded under its original name, the British Empire Games, in 1930.

They are held every four years, giving around 5,000 athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations the chance to compete.

Glasgow 2014 will be the third time Scotland has hosted the Games.