Magnus Eze, Enugu
Nigeria’s former oldest prisoner, Pa Celestine Egbunuche is dead. He died at about 9:00 pm last Friday in an undisclosed hospital in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
The centenarian hailed from Amachara Owerri, Akokwa in Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo state but Sunday Sun gathered that he could not go home after he regained freedom on June 6, 2019, after being in prison with his only son, Paul and an octogenarian relation for about 19 years,
He clocked 101 on August 4, 2019, barely two months after his release from the Enugu Correctional Centre, where he was on death row for 18 years. Sun newspaper had exclusively reported his plight August last year when he turned 100 in prison.
On release, Pa Egbunuche was rushed to St. Daniel’s Hospital, Independence Layout, Enugu, straight from prison gate by a Non-Governmental Organisation; Global Society for Anti-corruption (GSAC) which had pushed for his release including petitioning President Muhammadu Buhari and then, Imo state Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, for his pardon. Okorocha granted him pardon a few days before leaving the office. His daughter, Chisom eventually took him to her base in Port Harcourt, after the Enugu hospital stabilised him for a while on the bill of the NGO.
President of GSAC, Frank Ezeona, told Sunday Sun, yesterday, that the Nigerian system was unfair to Pa Egbunuche. He regretted that there was no response from the Imo State Government that granted him state pardon, even as he had suffered serious medical complications, going by doctors’ reports.
He noted that in the civilised world, the Government and correctional agencies would have gone a step further by providing rehabilitation and integration of such special ex-inmate.
Unfortunately, even at death, fortune failed to smile on Pa Egunuche as his corpse was reportedly dumped outside a mortuary in Port Harcourt, because of the inability of his daughter, to provide the money required by the morticians.
While the GSAC mourned the death of Pa Egbunuche, Ezeona praised his NGO for having fought a good fight and kept the faith with the centenarian ex-inmate before he “courageously saluted eternity and took a bow as a brave man.”
He, therefore, used the opportunity of the death of Pa Egbunuche to reiterate the call to the Government of Imo State to grant pardon to his only son, Paul for him to come home and bury his father.
“The lifeless body of Pa Celestine Egbunuche is abandoned in a place because he has nobody to bury him and gather his estate. The plea of pardon if granted to Paul Egbunuche will help him to pick up the pieces of his life having spent about 20years in prison.
“GSAC is making a passionate appeal to stakeholders within Pa Celestine Egbunuche’s constituency, public-spirited people; church leaders and the Imo State Government to quickly come to the rescue of Paul and his sister, Chisom, by granting pardon to Paul so that he could bury his father and offering helping hands to them so that they pick up their lives again,” Ezeona stated.