Dating app scams see ‘significant surge’ in Nigeria as victim opens up about being ‘set up’

There has been a “significant surge” in the number of dating apps scams in Nigeria, a human rights organisation has confirmed.

Being gay in Nigeria can carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, and northern states have adopted the harsher aspects of sharia law.

Last year, BBC Africa Eye documentary Kito: Blackmailing LGBT Nigeria shone a light on crimes perpetuated against the country’s LGBTQ+ community, as criminals use people’s sexual identities to blackmail them.

These criminals are called kito, a Nigerian term for a person who pretends to be queer on social media and dating apps to entrap LGBTQ+ people.

South African online newspaper Timeslive interviewed one man, Acho Kenneth, who said he knew he had been set up. 

He was asked to meet his Grindr date at their home in Lagos where he found Ugo hanging out with four friends, who left as the two of them moved to the bedroom to make out. 

But the men then rushed back in.

“They were hitting and flogging me with belts. I was crying. I knew I had been set up,” Kenneth said.

He was told to strip naked and was filmed while saying he was gay. He was ordered to pay one million naira (about £580) before being set free. He could only afford 150,000 naira (£88), but his friends managed to find an extra 350,000 naira (about £205) to secure his release. 

The Initiative for Equal Rights said that over the past seven years there has been a “significant surge” in cases such as Kenneth’s, with kito gangs becoming more organised.

Another victim, Chima, was threatened with being outed as a gay man to his wife and family if he didn’t pay up. 

In response, victims use online forums such as the Kito Diaries to screen dates ahead of any meeting. 

In February 2022, a man was murdered after a kito gang entrapped him through social media, according to DNB Stories Africa. Six men were also arrested in Nigeria for allegedly extorting money from gay people they contacted on a dating app.

The rise in the number of kito crimes has also forced authorities in South Africa to warn gay men using Grindr to be careful.

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