The federal government has launched an investigation to unravel the circumstances that led to the coming of Switzerland’s Ambassador to Nigeria with a male spouse alleged to be his gay partner.
Eric Mayooraz, who was posted to Nigeria last year to head the Swiss mission, is alleged to have arrived the country in the company of his gay partner, a Brazilian whose name was given simply as Mr. Carlos.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Thursday that it was aware of the issue and has commenced probe.
Efforts to register Mayooraz as a member of the Association of Spouses of Heads of Mission (ASOHOM) in Nigeria have been generating controversy.
The ambassador was asked to send his wife by the association as a member but he introduced a male partner to ASOHOM as a member, the response from the embassy reads:
“The Swiss Ambassador is not married. As he is not married, the Swiss Ambassador, upon request of the President of the ASOHOM, designated an employee of the Embassy, the Administrator/Intendant of the Swiss Residence, to represent him in ASOHOM, which created some misunderstanding among members.
As this designation seemed not to be accepted by some of the members, the Swiss Ambassador decided to withdraw from the association in December 2015.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the ASOHOM’s leadership on the matter proved abortive, even as Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the seat of the association’s president is currently vacant.
It was gathered that when the last chairperson completed her tenure last year, none of the members indicated interest in the leadership position.
When newsmen sought an audience with the immediate ex-president of the association, who is the wife of the Mexican ambassador to Nigeria, her husband denied him access, saying that ASOHOM was a private organization which does not want media coverage.
We are investigating the issue - Foreign Affairs Ministry
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Akinremi Bolaji, said it had been brought to the notice of the ministry that an envoy had a male spouse in the country.
In a telephone chat , Bolaji said: “We are aware of the development and have started investigation. It is either they have deceived us because we would never have allowed such a person to enter the country if we were aware before now. We have a law, which must be obeyed by all. If we find him culpable, he will be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
On 13 January 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which parliament passed in May 2013. The law imposes life imprisonment for some types of homosexual acts.
Section 1 prohibits any marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex. Such marriages shall not be recognized as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.
Such a marriage is void in Nigeria even where the marriage contract was entered into between persons of same sex by virtue of a certificate issued by a foreign country, and any benefit accruing therefrom by virtue of the certificate shall not be enforced by any court of law.
Section 2 forbids a Church, Mosque or any other place of worship in Nigeria to solemnize same sex marriage entered into between persons of same sex. Also no certificate issued to persons of same sex in a marriage shall be valid in Nigeria.
According to Section 3, only a marriage contracted between a man and a woman shall be recognized as valid in Nigeria. Any person who enters into a same sex marriage contract, according to the law has committed an offence and is liable on conviction to 14 years imprisonment.
A person, who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organization, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same sex amorous relationship in Nigeria also commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.
While a person or group of persons who administers, witnesses, abets or aids the solemnization of a same-sex marriage or civil union, or supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 10 years imprisonment.
While Switzerland has recognized same-sex couples since 2007, same-sex marriage is not yet legal. However, in February, the law committee of the Lower House of parliament in the country voted in favour of same-sex marriage.
It’s a start, as any move to legalize marriage for gay couples would require a change to the Swiss constitution and the passing of a national referendum. In a recent poll for Pink Cross, 54 per cent of Swiss people said they supported same-sex marriage.
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