By Uduma Kalu
A Nigerian businessman, Emmanuel Chukwugozie Okeke, jailed in Holland in questionable circumstances for over one year now, has been reported to Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman of the House of Representative Committee on Diaspora.
Barrister Okey Muomalu, acting for Okeke, pleaded with the rep to intervene to free his client from what he called â€œunlawful detentionâ€ in a Netherlands jail since May 2008.
According to the lawyerâ€™s account, Okekeâ€™s travails actually began on a fateful September 3, 2002, when he was arrested by the Dutch Police on arrival from London while on a brief stop-over to see his nephew, one Oby Ikechi.
Okeke, who was reportedly on his way to Germany, found himself rounded up by over four-dozen policemen shortly after he stepped into Ikechiâ€™s apartment. Everybody therein was arrested and taken away, including visiting Okeke on whose luggage cash of 38,000 Pounds Sterling was found.
Okekeâ€™s plea was ignored that he did not reside in Holland, did not commit any crime, and that the said sum was meant for cash payment to his suppliers of goods in Germany, his ultimate destination, the counsel further stated in the petition to Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa, dated July 31, 2009.
The petitioner claimed that after detention and trial which spanned over three months, Okeke was discharged and acquitted in December 11, 2002, by a competent court of law in Holland which held that the Nigerian businessman had satisfactorily discharged the onus placed on him with regards to his mission in Holland and source of the fund seized by the police.
Following Okeke court victory, the said 38,000 Pounds Sterling was returned to him, the lawyer said. He proceeded to Germany to conduct the business he had intended, he added.
He was subsequently moved to Holland where the authorities clamped him into jail.
The counsel wondered how the fate of an accused person who had an inalienable right to fair hearing could be decided on appeal in absentia, and sentence imposed.
Even with the evident injustice visited an Okeke, the lawyer claimed that his client has been under constant threat not to initiate any further legal challenge against his â€œunlawful detentionâ€.
â€œThey are threatening to declare him an undesirable person in Europe if he dares challenge the authorities in Netherlands for not giving him fair hearingâ€, the lawyer said.
Muomalu pleaded with the committee chairperson, Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa to intervene and act expeditiously to save his client from further unmerited punishment.