Former Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Osaze Osemwingie-Ero, has raised the alarm over the illegal detention of over 300 Nigerian youths in Italian prisons for trumped-up charges on mafia-related offences.
Osemwingie said he learnt about the plight of the innocent young Nigerians during his wrongful detention in Italy as a result of a “very corrupt and complex system.”
The former commissioner, who spoke during an interview on Arise TV, on Friday, said the youths are held and committed to maximum prisons in Italy because they do not have the resources to access an independent lawyer.
“They don’t have money to take lawyers; the prosecutor gives them government lawyers that he uses to manipulate them,” the ex-commissioner noted.
He further called for the collaboration of all stakeholders including the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and the media, among others to ensure the release of the youths.
According to him, “We have over 300 Nigerian youths who are unjustly being held in prison because of these mafia-related crimes; they didn’t commit the crime.
“I made a promise that I am going to create awareness for the release of those innocent Nigerians. We must fight as Nigerians to ensure that they regain their freedom.”
He continued: “As a senior government official, there was no support from the Nigerian government during my ordeal in Italy. I have spoken to the chairperson of Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, who is very proactive and vocal, and she’s ready to work with us to ensure that those people are released.
“These over 300 Nigerians have families, wives, children and parents who are suffering as well. We must not sit down and allow them to languish in prison because of a very corrupt and complex system. The prosecutors are very corrupt and are using us for modern-day slavery because the European Union is paying them huge sums of money to fight mafia activities.”
“It is worthy of note that we don’t have mafia in Nigeria. I also believe that anyone who commits a crime should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, made to face the consequences. But these Nigerians, who are innocent, are suffering in prison in Europe. We must stand up for them and speak out for their release. It’s because these Nigerians don’t have a voice or the resources that they are jailed unjustly,” Osemwingie noted.
The ex-commissioner explained that he was on official trip to Germany, in 2019, to have a meeting with the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, on the Benin artefact restitution campaign when he was arrested in Amsterdam and illegally detained for over a year in Italy, adding, “I was a victim of racial discrimination and manipulation of a very corrupt prosecutor of the Italian Justice system.”