LGBT crime
Homosexuality is considered a crime in Nigeria, with gay people at risk of being imprisoned for up to 14 years. Getty

The US will continue to put pressure on Nigeria to scrap anti-gay laws and allow homosexual unions, according to a US politician.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, made the comment days before Nigeria's President Mhammadu Buhari is due to visit Washington.

"As a government, it is one of the highest priorities and strongest values that discrimination against anyone based on their sexual orientation and gender identity is wrong. We believe human rights should be available to everybody," she said in a statement.

"As a policy, we will continue to press the government of Nigeria, as well as other governments that have provided legislation that discriminate against the LGBT community."

In 2014, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a controversial anti-homosexuality bill, sparking international outrage. The law, named Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill and dubbed by media as "Jail the Gays" bill, imposes prison sentences of up to 14 years on those found guilty of involvement in a gay marriage or civil union.

Anyone who registers, operates or takes part in gay organisations or makes a public show of a same-sex relationship will also be punishable to up to 10 years in prison.

The law prompted a crackdown on homosexuals. Amnesty International said the new legislation disregards human rights and warned that the new legislation mirrored the laws enforced by the military dictators who ruled Nigeria until 1999.

"The deeply repressive Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act must be withdrawn without delay. With the stroke of a pen, President Jonathan has essentially turned Nigeria into one of the world's least tolerant societies," Amnesty warned.

Reports also warned that Nigeria's discriminatory laws and systematic homophobic repression is having a negative effect on public health.

Nigeria has become (after South Africa) second in the world when it comes to the number of citizens with HIV, with 3.4 million of Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS.

According to the director general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), professor John Idoko: "Most successful initiatives recognise the role of legislation as the tool against stigma and discrimination.

"We must begin to be proactive in the implementation of action plans that are workable and friendly and advocacy must be carried out at all levels of the society."

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