Over 300 Nigerian youths are currently detained in Italian prisons over alleged Mafia related offences, a former commissioner has said.
Osaze Osemwingie Ero, a former Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs in Edo State, South-south Nigeria made the revelation in an interview with Channels Television on Friday, Aug. 20.
Ero said he had learnt of the plight of the illegally detained Nigerians first hand during his own experience of 18 months wrongful detention in 2019 on a visit to meet with Yusuf Tuggar, the then Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, on business relating to the Benin Artifacts Campaign.
“Security operatives picked me up, and I was swiftly accused of being a member of what the Italian prosecutors called the Nigerian Mafia, reading through Article 416 BIS of the Italian criminal code and pages from the forged manual called the green bible,” he said.
The former commissioner said he had discovered from interviewing other Nigerians who were incarcerated for charges similar to those levelled against him in the detention, that a certain ‘Green Bible’ (a copy of which he was able to obtain) and forged papers that were brought up as evidence against him, were the same evidence put forward against the others in custody.
He added that the young Nigerians are being held in Italian maximum prisons because they did not have the resources to access an independent lawyer. According to him, his release was by ‘God’s grace’, adding that it cost him a lot of money to get good legal representation which these other Nigerians do not have at the moment.
“The prosecutors in Italy were manipulating the justice system against Nigerians,” Ero said, adding that it became clear to him that “he was a victim of racial discrimination, and manipulation of the Italian Justice System by a very corrupt prosecutor; Dr Stephano Casano.”
He called for the collaboration of all stakeholders including the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, the media, among others, to ensure the release of Nigerians unjustly detained in Italy, some of them facing up to 140 years in prison.
To let the world know of the injustice being meted out to innocent Nigerians by the Italians, he said he would be staging a protest alongside his friends and family in front of the Italian Embassy next week.
He, however, added that his then boss, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, called the Minister of Foreign Affairs to notify them of his arrest and nothing was done to follow up the case.
“If that could happen to me, you can imagine the fate of ordinary Nigerians?” Ero asked.
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