A Nigerian transgender celebrity is jailed for throwing money into the air, a rare conviction

By Chinedu Asadu, The Associated Press

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A popular Nigerian transgender woman was sentenced to six months on Friday after a local court convicted her of throwing money into the air, a practice known as spraying. Though common, especially at parties, spraying is illegal in Nigeria.

The rare conviction was criticized by many in the West African nation, a deeply conservative country where members of the LGBTQ+ community are often targeted under a law banning same-sex relations.

Okuneye Idris Olanrewaju, better known as Bobrisky, was accused of “tampering” with naira banknotes by spraying them at a social event.

She had pleaded guilty when first arraigned by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency in the economic hub of Lagos. Bobrisky’s sentence — without the option of a fine — is the maximum permitted by law for the offence. She is allowed to appeal the ruling.

“Selective enforcement of the law is a problem in Nigeria,” said human rights lawyer Festus Ogun, who raised the question why Bobrisky was “singled out” by the anti-graft agency.

Bobrisky said in court that she was not aware of the law. “I am a social media influencer with 5 million followers … I wish I can be given a second chance to use my platform to educate my followers against the abuse of the naira,” she told the judge.

A dollar is worth about 1,197 Nigerian naira. Throwing naira banknotes into the air is deemed to be abuse of the currency as the banknotes eventually fall on the ground and could be trampled by people’s feet — considered an insult in this African nation.

Bobrisky sentence would serve to deter others from abusing the currency, presiding Judge Abimbola Awogboro said.

“Enough of people mutilating and tampering with our currencies. It has to stop,” the judge added.

Chinedu Asadu, The Associated Press

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