The federal high court in Lagos, on Tuesday, dismissed the case against James Brown, a popular Nigerian crossdresser, and 46 other men charged for public display of affection with members of same-sex.
According to Reuters, the men were arrested in a 2018 raid on a hotel in Egbeda. The police had said they were being initiated into a gay club but the defendants denied the claim, adding that they were attending a birthday party.
The case was dismissed after prosecutors failed to attend the hearing at the high court, having previously failed to present some of their witnesses for the hearing that had been adjourned on several occasions.
The charges brought against the defendants carried a 10-year prison sentence.
Rilwan Aikawa, the judge who presided over the case, said he resorted to striking the case out due to the “lack of diligent prosecution”.
In reaction to the dismissal as the defendants proceeded out of the high court, Brown could be heard saying: “I’m free. I’m free to travel around the country. Yeah. It means a lot of good things. I’m very free.”
A Nigerian law that bans gay marriage and same-sex amorous relationships had stirred public outcry when it came into force under the former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.
However, no offender is known to have been convicted under it, which led to the case being widely seen as a test.