A 21-year old Nigerian lady, Itunu Babalola, who was ‘wrongfully jailed’ Cote d’ivoire has been reported dead.
Consequent to the death of Babalola who was said to be a trader in Bondoukou, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigerians have expressed shock just as her death has occasioned an outrage on social media.
It was gathered that her apartment was burgled by an Ivorian in September 2019 and she reported the incident to the police but the DPO of the station informed her that the suspect was his nephew.
The DPO reportedly offered her a settlement worth roughly N100,000 to drop the case, an amount lesser than the N300,000 worth of stolen effects.
Babalola, who was said to be an indigene of Oyo State, was reportedly arrested when she refused the settlement, charged to court for human trafficking and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Her story was shared on Twitter by a journalist, David Hundeyin in March 2021 and the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) had said it was working to prove her innocence.
NIDCOM boss, Abike Dabiri-Erewa confirmed that the lady was charged and incarcerated for a crime she didn’t commit.
“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,” the commission had promised in a statement.
However, Nigerians were shocked on Sunday night when Hundeyin, who had been following the case, gave serial updates that Babalola’s contracted an infection in the Ivorian prison.
The journalist uploaded photos of the young lady in an emergency situation being attended to on a stretcher by medical personnel.
“I have just received a message from Cote d’Ivoire about Itunu Babalola. She is still in prison in Abidjan where she has contracted a serious infection and apparently she is dying. All those promises by NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri, OYSG etc – audio. She’s finally dying,” Hundeyin wrote.
Many were saddened and disappointed that months after NIDCOM promised to ensure justice was served on the matter and secure the lady’s freedom, Babalola still remained behind bars in the Francophone West African nation, without any help.
Reacting @DrOlufunmilayo tweeted, “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. The money they never had to treat her.”
“Someone needs to call out that country’s judicial system! Someone needs to call out Nigerian Govt who can’t help their citizens home or abroad,” @DanielRegha demanded.
“Nowadays, I just feel so sorry for every Nigerian, including those in diaspora! We’re in a lot of trouble! The system failed us!” @Petraandra2 lamented.
Another tweep, @fvckgotti, called out the NIDCOM chair, “@abikedabiri, you once stated this girl is in safe hands. you tweeted the foreign affairs ministry were on deck to Abidjan to save this lady.
I’m not quite surprised when even in our own country, we fall prey/victim of circumstance not to talk of needing help when we are away. Damn Broken heart.”
Spokesman, NIDCOM, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, said the Commission is already addressing the issue and would release statement shortly.