From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Chairman/CEO of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has assured of the federal government’s commitment to take up the case of 300 Nigerians in Italian prisons if indeed they are found to be illegally detained in Italy.
She gave the assurance when she received former Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Osaze Osemwingie-Ero, who was arrested by the police in France in Novemberr 2019, but eventually set free after 18 months when he was not found guilty of being a leader of a mafia gang.
She assured that her office will work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Office of the Attorney General of the Federation through NIDCOM’s legal department to bring justice to those wrongly detained.
She said: “Again we commiserate with you on what you went through. You were our focal person on diaspora in Edo state. So again, sorry about what you went through because eventually you were freed of the crime they claimed you committed. But the key thing is what you saw in prison. “According to you, there are 300 Nigerians in Italian prison for what you believe they didn’t commit. First thing we are going to do, is to write a formal letter and take it up with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation. There are many cases that the AGF has handled that has to do with persons in diaspora being maltreated. This is wrong, you are out quite alright but what you said that 300 Nigerians are being accused for a crime they didn’t commit is outrageous.
“Definitely our legal department will take this up as a matter of urgency with the Attorney General, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to look strictly into this case. And indeed, if there are so many Nigerians languishing in Italian prisons for years for a crime they didn’t commit, we can’t just watch and see that happen. I mean if you commit a crime you have to pay for it but to be locked up for something you didn’t do is pathetic.
“What we keep telling Nigerians is that when you go to other countries just live within the law of these countries. But that does not mean that you should be punished for something you didn’t do.
“So we will be thorough about this, we will look into it. And I hope that you have exhausted all legal means before you decided to protest, anyway it is you’re right to protest. But for us we’ll take it up with the AGF, foreign affairs and I’m sure everything will be done to unravel the case. If you did the crime you have to serve the penalty but if indeed they did not, they shouldn’t spend extra single day in that prison.
“We will continue to fight for the rights of Nigerians and we will continue to appeal to them to obey the laws of other countries.
“So again, we commiserate with you and hope that you’ll be able to overcome the trauma you must have gone through those 18 months.”
Osemwengie-Ero who has vowed to lead protest to Italian Embassy for release of over 300 Nigerians illegally detained on trumped up charges, assured he wants NIDCOM to be involved because of its track records in obtaining justice for Nigerians that suffer injustice abroad.
He said the protest will begin in Lagos, then to London if no favorable response, then to European countries of Brussels, Germany and The Netherlands.
Osemwengie-Ero, stressed that he was a victim of racial discrimination and manipulation of a corrupt prosecutor of the Italian Justice system.
He maintained that he was on an official trip to Germany in 2019 for a meeting on the Benin Artefacts Restitution Campaign when he was arrested in Amsterdam and illegally detained by the Italian government.
The former commissioner, who commended Governor Godwin Obaseki for standing by him when he maintained his innocence, said his arrest and incarceration had nothing to do with the state government or the governor.
“My arrest had nothing to do with money laundering. I was not arrested with $2 million in my suitcase for the governor nor was I arrested in France by the Interpol”, he said.