By Victoria Ojeme & Nwafor Sunday
…We have engaged services of a lawyer to handle Itunnu’s appeal case – NIDCOM
…FG that abandoned her to die, will spend huge money to transport her corpse home – Nigerians
Twenty one year old, Ìtùnnú Babalola, jailed for 20 years in Ivory Coast, over a crime she did not commit is dead.
Babalola who hailed from Oyo State, was accused of human trafficking in Cote D’voire, a crime she never committed.
Ìtùnnú was said to have had complications from diabetes and was rushed to a hospital, after which she died a day after.
Who is Ìtùnú and why was she imprisoned?
Ìtùnú was a trader based in Bondoukou, Cote d’Ivoire. Ìtùnú’s apartment was burgled by an Ivorian on September 2019.
The suspect who is related to an Ivorian police officer, made away with goods worth about three hundred thousand Naira (300, 000).
Ìtùnnú reported the case to a nearby police station, but the DPO who is an uncle to the suspect allegedly offered her N100,000 to drop the case.
Eager to have justice, Itunnu went ahead to file charges against him and allegedly used a different name ( not her real name ) to file the case and somehow a case of robbery which she filed mysteriously turned to a case of human trafficking against her.
She was however, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
On hearing the case the Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, told Nigerians that she was working to prove the innocence of Ìtùnú.
According to her: “Following painstaking investigations by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and the Nigeria Mission in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, it is now confirmed that Itunu Babalola, a Nigerian living in Abidjan was wrongfully charged and incarcerated for a crime she did not commit.
“Plans are underway to engage the services of a legal luminary to prove the innocence of Itunu Babalola at the Court of Appeal after the accused had spent two years out of a ten-year jail term for an offence she did not commit”.
Abike in another statement opined that Nigerian mission in Côte Divoire paid and engaged the services of a lawyer to handle Itunnu’s appeal case.
“Unfortunately, Itunnu died abruptly while all hands were on deck to seek both legal and diplomatic intervention for her by Nigeria.”
Nigerians have lambasted the federal government over its negligence and carelessness, especially as its regards the rights of citizens in and outside the country.
Reacting via Twitter: @aproko_doctor: “What is painful about Itunu’s death is that the people who did nothing to secure her release will wake up iron their suits and go to work like nothing happened. No regard for life.”
@Elkrosmediahub: “Not like it isn’t right to blame Abike Dabiri (Chairman of the Nigerian in Diaspora Commission), for the death of Itunu, who was wrongfully accused of human trafficking in Cote D’voire, but why is the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama always exempted? Pouting facePouting face.”
@DrOlufunmilayo: “This same govt that abandoned Itunu to die will suddenly arrange and pay huge money to transport her corpse home. Money they never had to save her from jail. Energy they never had to fight for her. Money they never had to treat her. A lunatic country led by heartless animals.”
@DemolaRewaju: “Understand that every failure of Govt kills the Fire of Patriotism in Citizens, one candle at a time. Itunu Babalola didn’t just die alone – her death has snuffed out the light of hope in those who dared to believe that just maybe this time, Nigeria would turn up differently.”
@OgbeniDipo: “I have just spent a few minutes reading about Itunu Babalola’s story. The anger on the TL against the federal government is justified. The consulate could have gotten her out. This is really very unfortunate.”
FG Reacts to her death
The Federal government of Nigeria, has on Monday reacted to the death of Itunnu. Abdur-Rahman Balogun, Head of Media, Public Relations Unit, NIDCOM, in a statement sent to Vanguard demanded for a full investigation of Ìtùnú’s death.
In his statement titled: ‘Death of a Nigerian in Cote D’ivoire, FG demands for full investigation’, Balogun explained how NIDCOM had intervened on Ìtùnú’s case and plans to set her free.
Read the full statement below: “The Federal government of Nigeria has demanded for full autopsy on the sudden and mysterious death of Ìtùnú Babalola, a Nigerian, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Côte Divoire for alleged human trafficking.
“This was contained in a statement signed by the Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa and released by the Commission’s Head of Media, Abdur-Rahman Balogun , which stated that Itunnu’s case was drawn to the attention of NIDCOM about five months ago.
“Dabiri-Erewa, described the death of Itunnu as a tragic blow, at a time the Nigerian mission in Côte Divoire had paid and engaged the services of a lawyer to handle Itunnu’s appeal case.
“Unfortunately, Itunnu died abruptly while all hands were on deck to seek both legal and diplomatic intervention for her by Nigeria.
“Itunnu was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for an offence she did not apparently commit.
“Itunnu had accused an Ivorian of robbery at her residence and insisted on filing a case against him.
“The accused who happens to be related to an Ivorian police man, asked her to drop the case, but she refused.
“Itunnu went ahead to file charges against him and allegedly used a different name ( not her real name ) to file the case and somehow a case of robbery which she filed mysteriously turned to a case of human trafficking against her.
“She was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment while the Nigerian mission in Cote Divoire supported by the Nigerian community, got her a lawyer, paid part payment of legal fees for the lawyer, to appeal the judgment , while at the same time seeking diplomatic intervention from the Nigeria Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The staff of the Nigeria mission had also visited Itunu in prison, a distance of over four hours from Abidjan.
“While the appeal case was on, Itunu was said to have complications from diabetes and was rushed to the hospital.
“The fees for the treatment was paid by the Nigerian mission through the lawyer whose services were engaged by the mission, unfortunately, she died suddenly after a few days of admission at the Hospital.”