Nigerian writer Chibụìhè Obi has been released, reportedly after being kidnapped and held to ransom for writing an anti-homophobia essay.
On Monday, Obi’s concerned friends put out an alert on social media calling for help in finding the teacher, poet and photographer, who had been missing since the 1st of June.
It’s believed that he was abducted as a result of his piece titled We’re Queer, We’re Here, published last month by the Brittle Paper literature blog. His captors are said to have demanded money for his release.
Late on Monday, Obi’s friend Pa Ikhide confirmed that he was safe. “And Chibụìhè Obi is finally free. The chick is back to us, free from hugging the hawk’s talons. Long, terrifying weekend. I applaud all those young ones who worked day and night to bring him home,” said Ikhide on Facebook.
It appears that as a result of the uproar around his disappearance, Obi’s abductors released him and announced on social media where he could be found. He was picked up by friends at a location around five hours away from his home.
There have been claims that other LGBTIQ or LGBTIQ-supporting writers in Nigeria have disappeared and even been killed.
In his essay, Obi revealed that he and others have been threatened and attacked for producing LGBTIQ-affirming work and for speaking out in support of equality.
He said that after speaking about LGBTIQ literature at the Owerri Book Festival, “an unknown young man stalked me up to the rear gates of IMSU and, when he finally caught up with me, threatened to cut off my penis if I went on to write and promote homosexuality”.
Obi continued: “It is over a year now since we started publishing LGBTIQ-themed poems. Threats have been coming. Thick-brained humans come to your Facebook inbox and write long sermons peppered with hate and warnings…. The threats are becoming overwhelming. I do not speak only for myself. I speak for every queer voice speaking into the Nigerian literary space.”
Gay sex is illegal in Nigeria, with penalties including 14 years in prison. Twelve northern states operate under Islamic Sharia law that allows homosexuality to be punished with death by stoning.
The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, enacted in 2014, outlaws gay marriage and any kind of same-sex relationship with 14 years’ imprisonment. The law also punishes establishing, supporting and participating in gay organisations and clubs as well as public displays of same-sex affection with 10 years in prison.