The former Edo Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Osaze Osemwengie-Ero, with the support of the Edo State Government has secured the release of eight inmates from the Oko correctional facility in Benin City.
The ex-commissioner hosted the freed inmates who were jailed for petty offenses such as fighting, stealing and malicious damage on Wednesday, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his freedom from unlawful detention in Italian prisons.
Osemwengie-Ero was unlawfully detained in Italian prisons for trumped-up charges of mafia-related offences and was released in May 2021
He said, “This is exactly one year today since I was released from the prison in Italy. I looked at it and I said, yes, most of the time when we are celebrating anniversaries, we visit orphanage homes and the less privileged and give out to motherless babies and all that.
“But I said that in line with what I went through in Torino Prison in Italy, I should facilitate the release of some innocent people in Oko prison in Benin who cannot afford either the fine they were given or some of them who were jailed for petty crimes.”
The ex-commissioner further noted, “When I visited the controller of the correctional center in collaboration with the ministry of justice to go through the prisoners’ list, it saddened me to know that somebody spent three months in prison for just N20, 000.
“That is wickedness; I don’t understand how the justice system works. I am not a lawyer but I think they would have used that kind of a person for community service instead of keeping that person in prison for just N20, 000.
“Going through the list, we found out that there are people who were sentenced with a fine of N50,000 or two-years imprisonment, N100,000 or three years imprisonment, and N200,000 or three years imprisonment.
“You can imagine keeping somebody in prison for two years just because of N100, 000. When the person comes back out of that prison how is he going to fit into the system?
“So, we decided to reach out to friends to raise N2 million and secure the freedom of eight prisoners and for other logistics. I am very glad that God is using me to do this and reach out to humanity,” he added.
On his part, the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr. Andrew Emwanta, reassured the government’s commitment to ensuring the wellbeing and safety of Edo residents, pledging to sustain partnership with the convener to sustain the initiative.
He charged the freed inmates to stay off crime and leverage the training and employment opportunities provided by the state government through the state’s skills development agency, EdoJobs.