Homophobic gangs in Nigeria are targeting LGBTQ+ people and blackmailing them for money using fake online dating profiles, it has been revealed.
These criminals are called ‘kito’, which is a Nigerian term for a person who pretends they are queer on social media and dating apps to entrap LGBTQ+ people.
A new BBC Africa documentary, Kito: Blackmailing LGBT Nigeria, sheds light on the crimes perpetuated against the country’s LGBTQ+ community, as criminals use people’s sexual identities to blackmail them.
In Nigeria, being gay can carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
In the documentary, a father of three, Mohammed, shares the story of when he was the victim of a kito gang.
Mohammed had been talking to a man named Jamal online before he decided to meet up with him.
They went back to his home and when Mohammed got into the shower, a group of men burst in and began beating him. Jamal and the gang took a video of the assault and posted it online.
“I couldn’t believe that someone I trusted could go to the extent of doing that to me,” Mohammed told the BBC.
Mohammed said he became suicidal after the experience but his son’s unconditional love kept him alive.
“I called my kids, three of them. My son told me he loves his father. Even if his father is queer, he has no issues with that,” he said.
Emmanuel, another victim of the kito, told the BBC he was also filmed after being tricked. His attackers didn’t post the video online, but instead forced him to withdraw 500,000 naira (£860) from his bank accounts and tortured him with an iron.
He said the experience hurt him “mentally” and left him feeling “insecure”.
Most of the men interviewed in the documentary lost their jobs when the blackmail videos went online.
In February 2022, a man was murdered after a kito gang entrapped him via social media, according to DNB. Six men were also arrested in Nigeria for allegedly extorting moneyfrom gay people they found on a dating app.
Crimes targeting gay men using dating apps have become a common occurrence across the continent. In South Africa, authorities recently warned gay men using Grindr to be careful as criminals were using the app to find targets and blackmail them.