From Tony Osauzo, Benin
Nigerians in Italy have refuted recent claim by former Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Mr Osaze Osemwengie-Ero, that Nigerians residing in Italy were being maltreated by Italian government and that over 300 Nigerians were being unlawfully detained in the country.
Ero, who returned from Italy to Nigeria June this year, after he was released from detention in Italy, raised the alarm that over 300 Nigerians are presently languishing in Italian prisons, claiming further that he too was wrongly detained by the Italian government.
In his widely publicised statement Ero claimed that he was a “victim of racial discrimination and manipulation of a very corrupt prosecutor of the Italian Justice system” adding that many Nigerians were going through the ordeal he went through in Italy.
But reacting in a statement, Oputteh Ifeoluwa Michael, Welfare Officer, National Union of Nigerian Associations in Italy (NUNAI), described Ero’s claim as false, stressing that Italian authorities have never targeted Nigerians for any harassment or racial discrimination.
He argued that if the Italian government and judiciary were corrupt and discriminate against race as claimed by Ero, they (the Italian judiciary) would not have freed him from detention for lack of enough evidence on the allegations leveled against him (Ero).
Oputteh, while noting that no fewer than 100,000 Nigerians live in Italy and that the two countries have inter-married, said if Nigerians were target of racial discrimination as claimed by Ero, this would not have happened, and that they would not have given the over 100,000 Nigerians living there abode.
“Italian authorities have never targeted Nigerians for any harassment nor are they engaged in racial discrimination. Precisely, we have more than 100,000 Nigerians living legally in Italy. These people are engaged in lawful businesses and some have even integrated into the Italian society and married Italians, while Italians also married Nigerians.
“Some have also acquired their citizenship. Definitely, if Nigerians are targeted by the Italian authorities, how come the same Italy gave Nigerians good abode in Italy. Why are these over 100,000 thousand Nigerians not arrested and put in prisons?
“It is also surprising that Mr Ero is accusing the Italian Judiciary of corruption and manipulation. The same corrupt judiciary tried him and set him free for lack of enough evidence. It means the judiciary is very fair and transparent”, he said.
The NUNAI Welfare Officer warned Ero not to use his political ambition to jeopardize the good relationship Nigerians have with Italians, pointing out that his claim could lead to war between Nigeria and Italy.
“Italy is a Sovereign state and I wonder whether he wants Nigeria to go to war with Italy just because of his political
ambition. The lives of
Nigerians in Italy are greater than his political ambition”, Oputteh said and urged Ero to leave Nigerians in Italy in peace and desist from using his political ambition to cause problem for them over there.