At the beginning of the journey to go meet his year-long virtual friend, Ahmed, 24-year-old student, was apprehensive about the possible worst-case scenario that could happen by the end of it – he could be dead in a ditch somewhere with no one aware of the whereabouts of his mangled corpse. He had a name for this fear, a name his online exchanges with other LGBT+ people from around the country gifted him; Kito.
Kito is a person who pretends to be part of the LGBT+ community, they work to build trust with queer people and once it is built, plan to meet for a hookup or a date, but the date or hookup is just a ruse to lure the queer person to be extorted or worse murdered.
Tobi, 25-year-old developer based in Lagos, thinks kito also describes the situation.
“When i hear the word kito what immediately comes to mind is a kidnap situation that may end up in blackmail, extortion, physical assault or murder. A gay person could orchasterate this, as much as a homophobic straight person.”
Ahmed didn’t wind up dead even though his potential hookup ended in a kito situation. He was slapped around, his ATM cards maxed out and he was threatened with being outed, if he came after his violators. He didn’t.
Something is common across kito stories; the weaponisation of the taboo nature of homosexuality across Nigeria’s different cultures and religions. There is something else that is common, the criminals committing these atrocities are aware they are committing a crime but darn the consequence because they understand the currency of shame is often too difficult to exchange for justice in Nigeria.
The term, kito could remain relevant in community-speak as a tell-all word that conveys the message without further endangering queer people who simply want to talk about their daily struggle. As a word, it however does a woeful job of conveying the gravity of the range of crimes being committed under its umbrella.
- Held him hostage – kidnap is punishable under Section 273 of the Penal Code with up to 10 years imprisonment and a possible fine. Punishment could vary up to a death sentence from state to state.
- Robbed him – robbery is punishable under both Section 402 of the Criminal Code and Section 298 of the Penal Code with up to 14 years and 10 years imprisonment respectively.
- Physically assaulted him – assault is a misdemeanour that attracts a punishment of, if no greater punishment is provided, imprisonment of one year.
Perhaps if we begin to identify every case of kito by its unique makeup; if we begin naming the crimes for what they are, criminal and intending criminals will begin to sit up and reconsider their criminal ways.
The irony of some of these grievous crimes attracting less punishment than the solemnisation of homosexual love – re-Same-sex Prohibition Act (2013), which attracts a 14-year prison sentence is not lost on us.