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19 Dec 2011-Nigeria is poised to ban and criminalize gay marriage in a bill that is gaining widespread support in the country’s legislature.

The bill would prohibit gay couples from marrying and punish offenders with up to five years in prison. Witnesses of gay marriage are also subject to up to five years of jail time.

"I am so confident because Nigeria is a society that is very, very godly," Sen. Domingo Obende, who sponsored the bill, told the AP.

Nigeria is a deeply religious country, split almost in half by Christians and Muslims. Though the two groups in Africa’s most populous country have clashed on a number of issues, sources say gay marriage is not one of them.

“There is no religion that welcomes the same-sex marriage, whether Islam or Christianity,” National Tourism Director Olusegun Runsewe told reporters. “We need to be careful and do all it takes to shun this practice, because same-sex marriage is satanic and it can destroy any system, as well as cause bad image for any country.”

Homosexuality is technically illegal in Nigeria. Sodomy is punished in the mainly-Christian south with jail time, and homosexuals in the Muslim north – where Shariah law prevails – may be stoned to death, though this practice has never officially been carried out.

By Mathew Cortina