A judge in Lagos has thrown out the homosexuality charge preferred against 47 men including Internet sensation, James Brown, due to lack of diligent prosecution.
Nigeria’s laws ban homosexuality and it is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The men were charged with public displays of affection with members of same-sex.
However, the decision of the court has ended what had widely been seen as a test of the country’s laws banning homosexual relationships.
The men were arrested in a police raid on a Lagos hotel in Egbeda in 2018.
Police said the men were being initiated into a gay club but the defendants said they were attending a birthday party.
Prosecution and defence lawyers in the case had told Reuters that nobody had yet been convicted under the law, which led to the case of the men being widely seen as a test case that could help to establish the burden of proof.
Prosecutors failed to attend Tuesday’s hearing at the Federal High Court in Lagos, having previously failed to present some of their witnesses in a case that had been adjourned on several occasions.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa struck out the case and said he had done so due to the “lack of diligent prosecution”.
Outside the court, many of the men smiled and cheered including James Brown, who said, “I am free. It means a lot of good things.”
Under Nigerian law, defendants in a case that is struck out can be rearrested and arraigned again on the same charge, whereas that is not possible in cases that have been dismissed.
Taxi driver, Onyeka Oguaghamba, a father-of-four, who said he merely drove people to the party, said he was happy the case had been struck out but disappointed that it was not dismissed entirely.