The bid by a three-time married Nigerian to avoid deportation from the United Kingdom by claiming to be a lesbian, who would face dire consequences if returned to her country of birth, has failed – comprehensively.
The ‘lesbian, ‘ Aderonke Apata, was last Wednesday told to go back home by the Royal Courts of Justice – the UK’s equivalent of the Supreme Court.
Mr Justice John Bowyers QC (Queen’s Counsel, equivalent of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN), dismissed her appeal.
Apata, who has since gone underground and refused to speak to some Nigerian gay rights’ activists, as well as the Daily Times, faces deportation to Nigeria anytime from now.
She had been so desperate to win the case that she submitted to the court, a Digital Video Disc (DVD) of herself in a sexual activity with Happiness Ogboro, a known Nigerian lesbian who had already been granted UK asylum on the ground of sexual orientation.
Apata entered the UK in 2004 with forged Swaziland documents. Two of her former marriages were in the UK, and she had pre¬viously been refused indefinite leave to stay based on those two marriages – one of which was to a Briton, the other to a Mr Bamidele. Her third marriage was to a European national.
Dismissing her 15-month legal tussle, during which she gathered over 20,000 online signatories to back her case, Bowers upheld the March 3 submissions of the Crown’s – government’s – lawyer, Andrew Bird, who had, among others, argued that her case be thrown out because, the factual findings of the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) were binding on the Royal Courts of Justice, RCJ. Bird also argued that it was an “abuse of the judicial process to make a collateral challenge to a decision which had a statutory right of appeal (but) which the Claimant – Apata- has elected not to pursue.”
The FTT, Bird had reminded the court, is “charged by Parliament with jurisdiction to make findings of fact, and is equipped to do so by means of the facility to hear oral evidence and cross- examination.”
Bowers cited the October 10, 2012 ruling of the FTT, which among others, concluded that Apata did not have a genuine and subsisting relationship and that in addition to her criminal behavior, she had shown contempt for the immigration laws of the UK and “repeatedly abused these laws.”
The FTT had also at the time of their ruling, concluded that “she is not a lesbian and she will not be motivated (to) act in such a manner as to be perceived to be a lesbian.”
In arriving at his ruling on Wednesday, the judge said: “I agree with Mr Bird that there was nothing irrational, perverse or wrong in law in the Defendant’s decision given the findings of the FTT.”
Her case was also dismissed on human rights ground and the court sided with Bird’s submission that even though she might have “sometimes” engaged in lesbianism, including producing DVDs of herself and her partner, “this claimant is not genuinely lesbian in terms of sexual orientation, and would not be perceived as such, and so she personally in fact has no well- founded fear of persecution” if sent back to Nigeria.
The judge added: “Indeed I find it difficult to disagree with the conclusions of the FTT that ‘she has engaged in same- sex relationships in detention in order to fabricate an asylum claim base on claimed sexual activity. “
Moreover, “I believe this fabrication has continued outside of detention. I also accept the associated submission made by Mr Bird that she has in effect adjusted her conduct so as to adopt other customs, dress and mores of a particular social group purely as a way of gaining refugee status.”
This, the judge said, “appears to accord with the findings of the FTT …”
Reacting to the ruling on Saturday, a prominent openly gay Nigerian, Davis Mac-Iyalla said: “ I am not a lawyer and don’t know what she can claim again under the UK legal system, but I can advise that she reach out to the LGBT (Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals and Transexuals) at home to see how they can support her in terms of being safe, should she be deported.”
The activist added: “I have always known that asylum is not for everyone , but those who are honest and are at risks should be given protection .”
Lady Phyl Opoku of Black Gay Pride also told the Daily Times that the judgement was disappointing. She said: “This is very sad and disappointing. Aderonke has been graceful and very visible in our community.” The Daily Times contacted Apata for her thoughts on Saturday, but she had not responded to the correspondence as at press time.