The Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC) has raised alarm over the detention of more than 5,000 Nigerian youths in Benin Republic prisons, citing cases of extrajudicial killings, harassment, maltreatment, and undue detention.
In a press statement signed by Comrade Igboayaka O Igboayaka, OYC National President, and Comrade Nweke Ifeanyichukwu, Secretary General, the organization emphasized the need to bring global attention to the plight of these youths.
The OYC disclosed that an estimated 95% of the detainees, predominantly aged between 25 and 50, are innocent individuals engaged in legitimate businesses in various states and cities in the Republic of Benin.
The youths are reportedly held in 13 different prisons, including well-known facilities such as Akpro Misserete Prison, Cotonou Prison, and Abomey-Calavi Prison.
Among the named victims are Fadogba James, Alassane Soule, Okumah Chika Lawrence, Bassey Sunday, Mouhamadou Mainassara, Fwah Enock Jebison, Onu Vincent Okechukwu, Ugochukwu Samuel, Ishaya Wycleff, and Odi Onyekachi.
The OYC urged the Nigerian government, led by President Ahmed Bola Tinubu, and various relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter.
The organization called for an impartial inquiry, asserting that approximately 95% of the detained Nigerians are innocent and engaged in lawful activities, with some having traveled from other countries for business purposes.
In specific cases, the OYC highlighted the arbitrary detention of Okumah Chika Lawrence, an administrative staff member of Esfam Benin University, Porto Benin Republic, since April 18, 2023.
Additionally, the statement detailed the case of Mr. Fidelis Chimezie Udensi, a Lagos-based businessman unlawfully arrested during a business trip to Benin Republic on November 30, 2020.
The OYC expressed concern over the imposition of lengthy jail terms ranging from five to twenty years without the option of a fine, emphasizing the demand for a compulsory fee, referred to as the “liberty fee.”
The fee, ranging from 500,000F.CFA to 10,000,000F.CFA, must be paid for early release, failing which the detainee serves the entire sentence, regardless of its duration.
Calling for immediate intervention by the Federal Government of Nigeria and concerned agencies, the OYC accused Benin Republic President Patrice Guillaume Athanase Talon of practicing modern-day slavery against citizens from various African countries, with a disproportionate number of victims being Nigerian youths.
The OYC urged the public to join their cause for justice, emphasizing that “injury to one is injury to all” and pleading for swift action to rescue and evacuate the detained Nigerian youths in Benin Republic prisons.