EXCLUSIVE: Prison inspired me to read law, to equip me to fight for the less priviledge – Edeno

Barr. Akpoghene Edeno is a native of Oleh, Isoko South local government area of Delta State who was wrongfully accused of murder and subsequently spent 12 years in prison after his trial.
But he did not allow his ordeal to define his future.
He sat for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination(WASSCE) and proceeded to study law at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) after his discharge and acquittal in 2012.
In this interview with Isoko Mirror, Isoko Regional Editor Kelvin Ohoror, he bares his mind on his ordeal while he was in prison, the determination and inspiration that made him to go back to school and other salient issues.

Excerpts

Can we meet you sir?
My name is Barr. Akpoghene Edeno. I am a native of Oleh by the grace of God Almighty, I was recently called to the bar.

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What happened in year 2000? Why were you arrested alongside with your friends and spent 12 years awaiting trial in prison?
I was alleged to have conspired to murder one Julius Oforofo of blessed memory. The true story is that, according to the police investigation report, my friend murdered Julius Oforofo. That my friend is still in prison. They said I conspired but the police investigation report actually exonerated me, because I was not at the scene of crime, I have no knowledge of it.

While in prison what gave you hope and belief that you can still go to school and become a lawyer if acquitted of no wrong doing?
What gave me hope and belief that I can still go to school and become a lawyer is my faith in God. It was also because the case was a frame up against me because I never committed the offence, I was also exposed to a lot of books in the prison, even though I was awaiting trial inmate. I was going to the prison library at Kwale prison, so I have access to books raging from Christian literature, philosophy and elementary law, those things actually inspire me and made me have the belief that I can still go back to school

Before you went to prison you were studying Mechanical Engineering at Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma?
I was admitted to study Mechanical Engineering at Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma due to my going to prison I lost the admission, then in prison I saw the need for me to read law so that I can fight the cause of Justice for the poor and the less privilege of the society.

How were you able to cope with the trauma when you left prison?
I was able to cope with the trauma when I left prison because of my determination to actually start up life again. When I left prison God actually gave me divine helpers who came to my aid. And most of them actually donated money for my going back to school. I will not forget to thank, Hon. Benjamin Okiemute Essien, Hon.Joel Onowakpo, Barr. Afahokor Duncan, Barr. Tony Ejumejowo, Mr. Charles Mallam Obi, Architect Josiah Iroro amongst others. May God Almighty bless them.

What did you think of the Nigeria judiciary system having spend 12 years awaiting trial. Do you think it need reform?
The Nigeria judicial system has pass through series of reformation but you know the law is dynamic, that is what we call dynamism of the law.The judicial system still need more reform to meet up the demand of the society.

As a young lawyer who was just called to the bar what are your plans for those who find themselves in your previous predicament?
As a young lawyer who was just call to the bar, one of my plans for those who find themselves in my previous predicament is to render pro bono service to indigent inmate who don’t have family support right there in the prison. Through this mechanism of my NGO “Friends of Prisoners” I will be able to reach out to such inmates and render pro bono service to them.
Secondly, I will also be keeping constant touch with them through my NGO, reach out to them with the word of God and through other means, because information and specialise knowledge are the commodity of kings, this will help them to be rehabilatated, reform and be reintegrated into the society.

What do you think of the social media hate speech bill?
If pass into law, is going to be a bad law. One, the definition of what constitute hate speech is narrow and unclear. Secondly, the provision of the bill if past into law will be inconsistent with the Nigeria Constitution. For the avoidance of doubt section 39 sub-section one of the 1999 constitution as amended provides that every person shall be entitle to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. So, to that extent the right to freedom of speech is very essential and fundamental to the development of a civilized society. It is the foundation for the enforcement of other right.
If the hate speech is past into law it will be contrary to section 39 sub-section one of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution as amended.

With the current political situation in Nigeria. Do you think the country need restructuring?
Yes of course, Nigeria need restructuring along true federalism, you know when you talk about restructuring is a term that has a wider concept, but let look at it from the area of true federalism.
When I say true federalism, I mean true federalism have to be a political system where there is power sharing between the federal government and other federating units. The federating units are suppose to be independent and co-equal.If you look at Nigeria very well, the federalism we are practicing, the federating units are dependent on the federal government and the federating units are not co-equal to the federal government. It should not be the one whereby every month end the federating units will be going to Abuja to share allocation.
They are suppose to contribute part of their earnings to the federal government. If you closely look at section 44 sub-section 3 of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution as amended gives the federal government management and control of natural resources, hydrocarbon and operations. So, for the country to be balance. Amending section 44 sub-section 3 will actually go a long way to balance the equation and pacify the people of the Niger-Delta region, because when such amendment takes place the state can now generate revenue themselves.
In my opinion they can now pay fourty percent of their income to the federal government for it functioning. I recommend what is obtainable in other jurisdiction like Canada and United State of America to be practice in Nigeria.

What do think of Isoko as a nation from the era of late Chief James Ekpre Otobo till this era in terms of political leadership and development?
Well, that question is a very complex question, because is a question that will attract a lot of analysis, you see the era of Late Chief Otobo and this era are different era, if you want to actually compare that era and this era in terms of development you have to consider the social-cultural and political milieu.They always say Isoko is not developing, what is happening to Isoko is not peculiar to only Isoko is almost in other ethnic groups too.
What I think we should be actually advocating for is unity among the Isoko people, let us present a common front. Assuming the governor is from Isoko we can be able to get a gas plant and a modular refinery or industrial park like such that is be built in Kwale. Let us work together, let there be unity of purpose so that we can present somebody who can go for the highest position in order to attract development to Isoko.

Is there plan to go into politics in the nearest future?
Yes of course, there are plans for me to go into politics in the nearest future according to God timing.

A lot of the youths on social media presently see you as a role model. What is your message to them?
I want the youths to see it from this direction. The 1999 Constitution as amended if you check it well is like a convenant, the government of the day and the citizens all have role to play. There are right and privileges that are define in the Constitution that are be bestowed on us, earlier on I made mentioned of section 39, section 39 is one of the fundamental right provisions. We have freedom of speech, freedom of movement, if you check the Constitution very well the provisions are not absolute, there are limitations. Limitations now comes in when you are a citizen of Nigeria and you breach some of those provisions. You might commit a crime and go to prison, meaning you are still a citizen but some of those rights were taken from you. For us as citizens who are Christians who believe that our constitution is the Bible which is the constitution of the kingdom of God. And our right, privileges and benefits that are accruing to us are already define in the constitution of the Supreme God which is the Bible.
My advise to the youths is that, let them abide to the laws of God so that they can enjoy the benefits, rights and the privileges that are accrue to us which are already written in the Bible. There are provisions if you need good governance, wealth, peace and good health, everything are stated in the Bible. If you read Matthew 6:33 to a large extent seek it first the kingdom of God actually subsume a lot of situations by obeying the law. Working for the expansion of the kingdom of God, services the kingdom of God.
We have try everything, knowledge, expertise, illiteracy, voodoo but they all failed. Let us try God by abiding to the tenents of the Constitution which is the Bible.

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