The Oba of Benin in Edo State, Oba Ewuare II, is currently enmeshed in modern-day slavery scandal and an alleged violation of human rights of one of his palace aides, Nelson Oghogho – a 20-year-old who was detained by the police for months and remanded in prison over an allegation of stealing.
According to SaharaReporters Oghogho, who joined the palace in 2016 as a 15-year-old boy, was also denied bail by the police who were reportedly acting on “palace instructions.”
SaharaReporters gathered that the palace detained Oghogho and another palace aide, identified only as Bright, from May to August 2021 when they were taken to court and the two had been in prison ever since.
“So everyone is scared of the big name and the family of this boy is really helpless now; He was detained since May 31, 2021. The strange part is that they even denied his bail even when it was a case of someone being accused of stealing,” a source said.
“It may also interest you to know that these people are doing everything possible to sweep this issue under the carpet so people don’t know about it and they constantly give the impression that Nelson must serve some time for this outrageous allegation.
“Some time ago, Nelson tried to run away from the palace because of the maltreatment and hardship he had endured. You should also know that his poor parents who are farmers have not been spared by this cruel monarch as their few hard-earned landed properties have been seized and they are constantly at risk.
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“They have done all they can to beg and are still begging and saying he (Oba of Benin) should have their properties in exchange for their son’s freedom but to no avail. In my opinion, this is a pure case of modern slavery and this should not be tolerated.
“They are just using influence to keep the poor guy in prison, he was supposed to have been granted bail but they denied the bail, the state council opposed it and they are all trying to please the king.”
Oghogho and the other were accused of stealing N200 million cash from the palace.
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He was charged with stealing and conspiracy.
Speaking with SaharaReporters, a top source revealed that the allegation of stealing N200 million cash from the palace was both frivolous and inhumane.
“How is it humanly possible for a 20-year-old boy to steal the sum of N200 million in cash from the palace with all the security and pageantry without being noticed and traced? Even a bullion van will hardly hold that much money. It may also interest you to know that these people are doing everything possible to sweep this issue under the carpet.
“Initially, he (Oba of Benin) said it was $20,000, then, he said N10 million, when he saw that he wasn’t getting as much solidarity. He started increasing it till now it’s currently N200,000,000, which he is accusing Nelson of stealing.
“The state council gave some flimsy excuses that Nelson will run off if granted bail while his lawyer sat there and said nothing. Seemingly they’ve all been bought over. His lawyer later suggested that we should go for an appeal for the bail and charge an outrageous sum of N1 million,” he said.
SaharaReporters learnt that the palace aide now 20 years old (to turn 21 this year), wrote some notes while in remand, detailing how his ordeal at the Oba of Benin’s palace started.
He is being remanded in Oko correctional centre in Benin City.
In the notes written by the accused while in prison, and obtained by SaharaReporters on Friday, Nelson said, “Before reading this book, things you need to know; one, I have been serving the King (Oba Ewuare II) for five years plus. I have been serving without off day, break or relaxation time. I work 365 or 366 days a year.
“I am not on any payroll, I don’t receive any salary. My family don’t get any benefit or compensation. They haven’t received anything from the palace. My education got tampered with since I got to the palace because the school is not functioning well and no proper equipment or lab. I was over-laboured.
“I don’t have fixed working hours. Sometimes I do work from morning (6am) till midnight (12am); sometimes till dawn. I don’t have time for myself because I was occupied. I was being maltreated. I have photo proof. I was always beaten and threatened every day. I was just waiting for the whole issue to die so I can leave because it was becoming more unbearable. I called my parents and I explained everything to them; I even told my friends. They all advised me to just bear that maybe everything will soon be over.
“It all started when an issue arose on May 15, 2021, about some missing cash in the King (Oba Ewuare’s) inner chamber. I happen to be one of the close aides to him. So one of my colleagues, Bright, was detained on that same day; May 15 for questioning.
“Meanwhile I was still doing my daily routine without knowing how the whole matter was going. I was beaten and threatened to confess about my colleague (Bright) that I saw him taking the money. But I refused to do so because I never saw him taking the money. Truth be told, it wasn’t very easy; I couldn’t run because they would falsely accuse me. Though I kept on complaining to the person that brought me (Rowland), he kept telling me to keep calm that I can run when everything is over. He told me everyone will conclude I am the one who took the money if I run.
“On May 31, Rowland told me that I was going to the State Criminal Investigation Department to write a statement that Bright mentioned my name in his statement ad I was really confused because I don’t even know what he was talking about. So I walked up to his car and entered there. I heard a lot of rumour that police can torture you and you will start confessing what you didn’t do. I was really scared.
“Then I asked Rowland if I could go home from the police station because all I wanted in my life was freedom. So I told Rowland I was going to confess that I saw Bright and Igwe coming out from the inner chamber with brown envelope but I don’t know what was inside; that they gave me some cash later that day not to tell anyone I saw them.
“The story was made up, no incident like that ever occurred. I wanted to get myself involved so I will be chased from the palace and I see that as the only way to freedom. So Rowland drove me to the State CID with two bouncers who they were going to detain too. We met the Commander, anti-cultist unit and I wrote my statement in his office. I was surprised that after writing the statement, Rowland left me there and I was detained on May 31, 2021. At first, I thought Rowland was going to inform the king so that I would be sent home as we both agreed. But I never heard from him for more than a week. I waited for weeks but he never showed up but kept giving excuses when called.
“I was detained for two months, a week and a day. (May 31 to August 8, 2021); my parents never visited nor called to check up on me. It was my girlfriend that kept on bringing food to me. It wasn’t really easy though.
“Note that my parents’ property; a house on 100 by 100 and extra land were seized by the palace even before investigations started. The properties have not been returned yet.
“So after being detained again on October 25, 2021, we were charged to court. We were taken to a High Court for a stealing case. We were remanded in Oko Prison on October 26, 2021, as awaiting trial persons.
“So on a fateful day, we were called for a visit by some prison wardens that there were some visitors from the palace. On getting there, we saw Dennis Osaretin, Oyaniyen and one other palace functionary who I assume the palace sent to check to see if we were really suffering.
“Tomorrow is Christmas and I am still in prison; worst Christmas ever not for me though because I always celebrate it without going out or having fun but it’s actually the worst Christmas for my family. How are they going to celebrate Christmas knowing their son, brother is in prison? Don’t really know how they feel now but I still give thanks to GOD.”
Frank Irabor, Secretary of Benin Traditional Council, told SaharaReporters that the monarch is too big to respond to such allegations, especially as the matter is in court.
“I don’t understand the case you are talking about, the case is in court, do you want Omo n’Oba (Oba of Benin) to react to that?
“If someone is detained, even for one year, that is at the discretion of the judge or the agency handling the case. They will want to continue to remand the person, maybe to conclude their investigation.
“They should not drag Omo n’Oba into it at all; he is too big for that. So there is no need to say the palace or the secretary should react. Let the court handle it. Please, he is too big for that,” Irabor said.