How inmate of Owerri Correctional Centre spent 14 years awaiting trial
Two Catholic priests were taken aback when they discovered a citizen in Owerri Prison who had spent the previous 14 years of his life awaiting trial.
Rev. Fr. Remigius Him and Rev. Fr. Jude Onuoha, the priests, were at the prison to celebrate their priestly silver jubilee with the inmates.
Speaking on behalf of the detainees, Mr. Onyeka Mbaeri, Provost of the inmates, revealed that he had spent 14 years in the jail awaiting trial.
Mbaeri also praised the priests for remembering the detainees as they celebrated their priestly silver jubilee, and he prayed to God to bless the priests.
Another detainee, Mr. Andrew Ukwuegbunwa, maintained his innocence of the purported offence for which he has been in jail in his narrative.
He remembered how, when hoodlums invaded the prison in 2021, he didn’t want to aggravate matters by fleeing like others did.
His words: “I am innocent of the crime for which I have been in detention. When the jailbreak took place in 2021, rather than run away and complicate my matter, when I know that I am innocent, I ran and surrendered myself to the Archbishop Emeritus of Owerri, Most Rev. Anthony J. V. Obinna, who called officials of the prison to come and take me back to the Centre.”
While remembering that following the jailbreak, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, Governor Hope Uzodimma, and Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, visited the institution, promising those detainees who returned on their own that their cases would be thoroughly investigated.
“It is sad that since they made the promise, we have not heard from any of them again. I urge the priests to help make our plight known to the government”, Ukwuegbunwa pleaded.
Mrs. Ejuka Marvis Clara, Deputy Comptroller of Welfare, welcomed the jubilarians earlier and praised the Catholic priests for “your compassion and forthrightness in coming to rejoice with the neglected parts of society.”
“I am aware that most of you are here for crimes you had no knowledge of,” Rev. Onuoha remarked to the detainees. Some are here for crimes they have committed. I implore you all to pray and look up to God.”
Fr. Ihim believes that regardless of whether any of the detainees are innocent or guilty, “they are also human beings who are vulnerable and should not be treated as infra-humans because they made mistakes.”