A controversial bill that sparked international condemnation has been approved by Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan Monday, according to a spokesman for the president. The law effectively bans homosexuality and imposes hefty prison sentences to anyone involved in a same-sex relationship or belongs to a gay organization.

"I can confirm that the president has signed the bill into law," Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman Reuben Abati told AFP, without specifying a date but adding that it happened earlier this month.

According to Abati, President Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013 because it was consistent with the west African nation’s population’s attitude on homosexuality.

Amnesty International urged Jonathan to reject the bill, calling it "discriminatory" and warning of "catastrophic" consequences for Nigeria’s LGBT citizenry. News Naij reports that the bill’s assent was void of fanfare to reduce the diplomatic tension it will likely attract.

Details from the leaked communications:

"The President has signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill into law. This has foreclosed any pressure on President Jonathan not to assent to the bill.

"We received inquiries from some foreign embassies on why the bill was signed into law. But we told them that our cultural values do not tolerate same-sex marriage.

"Also, we made it clear that since most Nigerians were opposed to the bill, the parliament acted in line with the wish of the majority. We are in a democratic setting, the President has no choice than to bow to the wish of the people.

"These embassies were shocked but there is no going back. We hope they will also abide by the decision of Nigerians," a source close the President revealed.

According to Al Jazeera, under the terms of the law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union can be sentenced to 14 years in prison while any such partnerships entered into abroad are deemed "void." 

The law also warns that anyone who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or who directly or indirectly makes a public show of a same-sex relationship will break the law. Punishment is up to 10 years in prison, it adds.

From our media partner EDGE