CSOs urge Tinubu to secure release of Nigerian Pastor detained in Benin Republic

Dr Nwambu Gabriel, Leader, Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, (centre) and other members of the the coalition organistions
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By Perpetua Onuegbu

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has called on President Bola Tinubu to deploy diplomatic means to secure the release of a Nigerian Pastor, Benjamin Egbaji, being held by the authorities in Benin Republic over alleged rape.

Dr Nwambu Gabriel, the leader of the coalition and a member of the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, said this on Thursday in Abuja at a news conference.

The conference has as its theme “Injustice Prevails: Nigerian Pastor Falsely Accused and Unjustly Detained in Benin Republic”.

“The pastor, who has being unjustly detained for nearly a year is facing critical health challenges and if the Nigerian government does not take proactive steps he may die in detention.

“This is a Save our Soul (SOS) message for a Nigerian citizen who hails from Cross River, and now finds himself languishing behind bars in the Republic of Benin; #SAVE PASTOR BENJAMIN EGBAJI.

“He is being held under false, baseless and spurious allegations, while his health deteriorates rapidly. He has been detained for over one year without trial.

“The accusations against Pastor Benjamin were made by Pede Victoire, a citizen of Benin. She claimed that Benjamin has raped her daughter, Ahouandjinou Dona Sarah, when she was just 13 years old,” he said.

“However, it is important to note that this claim was never reported or complained about and no evidence has been presented to substantiate these allegations.

“The situation took a surprising turn when Sarah herself came forward and refuted the claim of rape.’’

Gabriel said that Dr Hubert Maga, Medical Director, ‘Central National Hospital Universitare’,  had also called for the release of Egbaji for proper diagnosis.

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He said the Nigerian Consular in Benin Republic had written to the Federal Government on the matter after he visited him.

“Given the harrowing circumstances surrounding Pastor Benjamin’s case, it is imperative that urgent actions be taken to save his life.

“We appeal to the Nigerian Government, in the strongest possible terms, to utilise all diplomatic ties and channels available to secure the release of Pastor Benjamin Egbaji.

“It is crucial for the government to recognise the urgency of this matter and take swift action to prevent further violation of Pastor Benjamin’s rights and ensure his immediate freedom.

“We demand an independent and thorough investigation into the allegations made against Pastor Benjamin Egbaji,” he said.

He added that lack of evidence and Sarah’s confession which refuted the claims, were signs that the allegations were false and baseless.

Gabriel noted that an impartial investigation would ensure that justice prevailed and the truth revealed.

He requested that Egbaji be transferred to a better-equipped medical facility without delay adding that failure to do so might lead to tragic consequences.

He also called for support for the accused, saying that it was the government’s responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens abroad and ensure their safety and well-being.

“Preserving the principles of justice and upholding the innocence of Pastor Benjamin are essential to maintain the integrity of the judiciary in any democratic nation including the Republic of Benin.

“The Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, alongside the coalition of civil society organisations, remains committed to fighting for justice and the immediate release of Pastor Benjamin Egbaji.

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“What we need now is for the President to give proper directives to the Foreign Affairs Ministry to do the needful and intervene swiftly before we lose someone who is perceived to be innocent.

“Anybody that is accused is believed to be innocent until he or she is proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Egbaji, who resides in Benin Republic was accused of rape after one Mrs Pede Victoire, claimed that he raped her 25-year-old daughter when she was 13.

Egbaji was arrested in May 2023 and had being in detention without trial. (NAN)(nannews.ng)

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Edited by Ali Baba Inuwa

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