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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 24 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 04
U.S. won't cut AIDS funds to Nigeria
Section One
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U.S. won't cut AIDS funds to Nigeria

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. will 'absolutely not' cut AIDS funds for Nigeria, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle said on January 20.

Entwistle spoke at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters in Abuja. The INEC is an independent commission set up in 1998 to monitor elections in Nigeria.

When asked if the U.S. would cut funding to Nigeria because of the new anti-Gay law that has already resulted in scores of arrests, Entwistle responded 'Absolutely not. But we have to look at it very carefully and make sure that everything we do is in compliance with the new law.

'As you know, we put millions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AIDS. And again, I am not a lawyer; I read the law and it seems to me that it may put some restrictions on what we can do to help fight HIV/AIDS in this country. 'These are the issues we are looking at as we look at the law.'

Under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, Nigerian officials may hand down jail sentences from five to 14 years to Gay people, Gay organizations, same-sex couples entering into marriage, Gay marriage guests, or people who know others to be Gay and do not report them to authorities.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the bill in secret on January 7, and scores of Nigerians have reportedly been arrested, some of them being tortured to procure additional names. One Gay man who confessed has already been punished with 20 lashes and a fine.

Both the U.S. State Department and the British Foreign Office have condemned the law, and expressed fears it could make AIDS prevention work in Nigeria much more difficult.

Reuben Abati, the special adviser to the Nigerian president on media matters, said his country does not need to take advice from anyone.

'It is actually illegal to spank children in many U.S. states and in much of Europe and Nigerian parents have been arrested for motivating their children via spanking,' he said.

'Now, if foreign domains would not tolerate something that is part of our own culture and which has been used to positive effects by generations of Nigerians, why should we accept something that is not in our own culture in order to please others?'

Nigerian ambassador to the U.S., Dahiru Suleiman, yesterday, described Gay and Lesbian sex as 'animalistic and degrading to humanity.'

In an attempt to mollify Nigerian officials, Ambassador Entwistle admitted that same-sex marriage is also controversial in the United States.

'The issue of same-sex marriage is very controversial all over the world, including my country where 17 states out of 50 have considered it. Some are saying it is not legal,' he said.

'The issue that we see, and I am speaking as a friend of Nigeria, it looks to me that it puts significant restrictions in the Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Expression and, in my opinion, especially in advanced democracies, once a government begins to say something in these areas, freedom no longer applies. It seems to me that such is a very worrisome precedent.'

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