The Nasarawa State Police Command has nabbed six members of a robbery ring who attract victims through a well-known gay dating app.
According to preliminary investigations, the suspects criminally plotted together and used a popular gay dating app to set up dates with unsuspecting people from all over the country, luring them to their hideout, holding them hostage, and taking their possessions while threatening them with lethal weapons.
The victims are also assaulted and made to divulge their ATM pins. Their bank accounts are subsequently wiped out before they are released.
Many Nigerians have expressed shock and surprise in their response to this news. This incident, however, is a normal occurrence within the Nigerian LGBTQ community.
It also has a name – KITO.
What is Kito?
Kito is when a gay man or woman is lured by someone who claims to be gay, only to be outed, assaulted, robbed, and, in some extreme cases, arrested or killed by a mob.
Catfishing, or using false profiles to defraud people, is a widespread social engineering technique, especially when it includes dating websites or apps.
However, these assaults can be especially damaging for victims who are sexual minorities in nations that stigmatize gay relationships, lack legislation protecting queer people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, or even criminalize homosexuality, as is the case in Nigeria.
It is a very traumatic experience for anyone who has fallen victim to this act. The aftermath of such an experience comes with a great psychological, mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual toll.
According to research, 15% of gay men who have been kitoed commit suicide, 40% of them live in permanent depression, and the remaining 45% genuinely don’t care because they refuse to let such things bind them.
Kitoing and similar events in other countries also draw attention to the increased risks LGBTQ individuals face online on a daily basis, particularly since the internet may be one of the few places they can access community.
However, some LGBTQ Nigerians have also harnessed the power of the internet to establish online forums for denouncing rogue actors, including developing digital journals like The Kito Diaries to alert others to alleged insider dangers.
How does Kito work?
The routine is quite straightforward. Often, it begins with meeting the person on a hookup app (they are everywhere; examples include Grindr, Tinder, Badoo, and even Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter).
From there, it progressively transitions to Whatsapp. They present themselves as being enamored with their victims, and it could take years before they finally ask to meet.
After a lengthy or brief wait, both parties decide to meet up, and the perpetrators either provide the unsuspecting victims with a venue or let them find their own; it doesn’t really matter to them whether it’s at the victim’s home or theirs, because their agenda is what matters.
The meetup is the final stage, and it is at this point that they rob, brutalize, and, in extreme cases, kill their victims.
Some are lucky to have a one-off experience. Others are blackmailed for years with the threat of outing if they do not comply with financial demands.
The Kito Network is a grossly overlooked organized criminal organisation
The fact that Kitos collaborate with others is not unusual; many of them have been known to build networks where they share information about vulnerable LGBTQ persons to target as well as knowledge about hidden queer events and popular spots.
It is interesting to note that in some cases, the accomplices and even the actual perpetuators of these acts are queer themselves.
Uncertainty persists as to the extent of these networks and links. According to testimonies on Kito diaries, however, kitos have a history of forging close relationships across state lines and sharing information about LGBT individuals with other kitos, who subsequently use it against their victims.
There have been cases where Kitos will intensify their efforts to exact revenge on an individual who may have resisted an extortion attempt and managed to flee.
The existence of this criminal network poses a major security risk to the LGBTQ community in Nigeria. One minute you could be on the best date of your life and the next you are being threatened as you divulge all your bank details so you don’t get killed.
The violence and prejudice that many members of the LGBT community in Nigeria experience because of their sexual orientation and gender identity may seem like old news, but the fear and injustice that go along with it continues to grow stronger every day.
According to the most recent Human Rights Violation Reports from The Initiative For Human Rights (Tiers), there were 831 violations in 2021. According to the report, these crimes were committed “Based On Real Or Perceived Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity In Nigeria.” Additionally, these were only reported cases. This was a big jump from the 397 reported in 2019.
To read more about Kito and the stories of survivors, click HERE
Joshua is a multidisciplinary creative and tech enthusiast who seeks to create meaningful experiences that make for a better and more equal world. He is a creative entrepreneur and human rights activist whose work navigates socio-cultural discourse and how it can be used as a vehicle for change.