John, Ibadan, South West Nigeria

My name is John. I am studying at a higher institution in Ibadan, South West Nigeria, but from Delta state. I share apartment at a locality close to school, where majority of the student body also resides. The area is known as Apete, in Ibadan.

We were aware some people in the area have been saying different things about us, that we don’t have female friends, and that some of our friends behave like women. But we never bothered to take these seriously because we know facts are needed before anyone can categorically lay accusations on us. This was where we made a mistake. We did not factor in the fact that with our issue, facts are hardly needed. So it happened that one of us had to celebrate his birthday, and several of our friends came to our house for that purpose. We got soft drinks and snacks and we were happy celebrating with him. This was daytime, around 5pm, May 2015.

In a moment of confusion, a van load of policemen swarmed in on us, policemen barricaded us telling us we were all under arrest. We were marched into their station which is a walking distance to our house. When we got there, they said we were initiating ourselves into a cult and that we were gays because they did not find any lady at our party.

They also seized a box of condoms belonging to one of our friends who works with an organization promoting HIV/AIDS behavioral change communications. I must state that our door was wide open, while all the condoms were in the box, not even on us, and the box was not opened. Our neighbors were around and even shared drinks with us.

The only probable explanation was the assumptions that we were gays because some of us behaved like women and that people have been suspecting us. When we got to the police station, we were stripped down to our boxers, assaulted and rammed into a tiny cell which would barely contain 10 people, and that is with about twenty or twenty one of us. We were in their cell for 3 days. Some individuals ensured we had  something to eat, which was mainly bread. We urinated and defecated  in that same cell through a hole dug at one corner of the cell.

Eventually some rights NGO came to our aid while some of our parents also came in to part with money to secure our release. It was clear the police had this well planned out as an extortionist scheme without a bother about our rights and wellbeing. We relocated from that house at Apete immediately we regained freedom because of the pressure and attention that our detention had  brought on us. And the unfortunate incident has taught us a vital lesson to be careful. Staying in that cell was horrible. One can stand for several hours because the cell could hardly contain us, while we took turn to sleep because the space was simply not  there. It was mosquito infested and there was not no effort to clean the toilet right at the corner of the cell where we were detained.