Friday, 11 November 2011

Nigerian gays fight blackmail, extortion using the Internet

By Paul Canning

Gays in Nigeria cannot expect police protection and are sick of being blackmailed, robbed, threatened and scammed - so they have set up a website to stop it.

Lagosheat aims to clean up on the scammers by turning the tables and exposing them.

"The silence and blackmail, only encourages these scumbags," they say.

The website, which hasn't been online for long, already has a lot of details of robbers, blackmailers, violent criminals and others using services like Manjam to make a quick buck from scared gay men.
"Do your bit to stop them and we will do our bit to get the word out and assist you," says Lagosheat.
Here's one character from the website:
07039473073‘ on uses the name Kingsly in his profile but is called Peter, appears to reside at No. 11 Apollo Street, Makoko has just been identified as a thief and blackmailer. He has two male friends and two female friends, possibly his neighbours (one called Felicia) who assist him by discreetly trying to film or photograph encounters between him and other men. Their plan is to then either seize your clothing or property and hold it as ransom. He is also happy to involve the local police station in his extortion attempt, and they are not to be trusted. You can check out his profile here while it remains online but ALL his pictures are on our FLICKR page.
The website has a safety guide for locals and for visitors. Lagosheat takes the time to verify any information it publishes and has already received threats on the site from those it has exposed.

Blackmailers and extortionists in Nigeria will often make contact over the Internet, once they've met you they'll steal valuables like laptops and mobile phones then promise to return the items in exchange for money.

The Behind the Mask website says that the LGBT Nigerian group The Initiative for Equal Rights also documents these abuses and they were shown some typical case scenarios:
Mr Okey: Okey is a bisexual man in a heterosexual marriage. He is concurrently in a committed relationship with a male lover, who always complains about not getting enough attention from Okey.

Once the male partner demanded that Okey spend more time with him but it was difficult for Okey to oblige. Okey said that he could not abandon his wife and kid for his lover.

Shortly afterwards the male lover began to threaten that he would disclose the relationship to Okey’s wife. Okey begged him not to and he asked his male lover what he wanted by way of compensation. The man demanded 150,000 Naira (US$1,000), which Okey obliged. The relationship ended a few weeks after.

Seye.Ola’s story: “Extortion and blackmail is what I have been facing at the hands of gay men like me. The very first encounter was with a guy who I met somewhere and took to my house. After we had sex he demanded I pay him the sum of 40,000 Naira (about US$245). I told him I had not picked him up as a prostitute but as a fellow gay man. After we argued I decided to pay him 20,000 Naira (about US$120) and he also took my phone.

“I gave him the money because, where I live, friends and neighbours have suspected me of being gay. I decided to pay him off so that he would not alert the neighbours.

“On the July 15, 2009, while I was at the office, someone called to inform me that a friend of mine in the UK had given him my number to call me. This was strange as I had not spoken to the UK friend in many years and did not even have his number. Nevertheless I was curious and arranged to meet the caller at a spot in my neighbourhood.

“I asked him how he got my number and he insisted my friend who is in the UK had given it to him. I believed him as he sounded so innocent like someone who would not harm a fly, let alone blackmail me.

“We made a date to meet at the same place again three nights later and after we met again, I took him to my house. In the middle of the night I woke up at about 2am and saw him lying awake on the couch, I called him to bed and asked why he was not sleeping. He told me that he had received a call telling him that his brother had been hospitalised and he needed to leave urgently. It was about 2am and I felt if he left it would not be safe and proper from him, so I persuaded him to wait until morning. While I was having my bath he stole my phone and wallet.”
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