The Chairperson, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has blamed Itunu Babalola, the Nigerian lady who died in an Ivorian prison, saying she reported her plight late to the Nigerian Commission in Ivory Coast.
Dabiri-Erewa said this during an interview on The Morning Show programme of Arise TV, monitored by our correspondent. She stated that Itunu had spent two years in jail before the matter was reported.
She said, “She did not inform the mission about the trial. She had spent two years in jail, then her father cried out for help. Perhaps, when she had issues with the burglar and policeman that was changing the case and reported to the Mission, maybe it would have been a different story.”
The former member of the House of Representatives, however, stated that the Nigerian Ambassador to Ivory Coast, Martin Adamu, immediately swung into action after the matter came to his knowledge.
Dabiri-Erewa stated that the Ivorian prosecutor said the victim should not be in jail.
She said, “But as soon as the ambassador got to know about it they immediately took action. First, they went to see her when she was in prison, somewhere outside Abidjan and got a lawyer. They also got money together for the lawyer to even begin the case. And the money was raised within the Nigerian community and the Nigerian Mission quickly. The lawyer gave an assurance that it was a case for an appeal. In fact, the prosecutor made it clear that the girl (Itunu) shouldn’t be in jail.”
Babalola’s case became public in March 2021, after a journalist, David Hundeyin shared her story on Twitter.
The 21-year-old from Oyo State was a trader based in Bondoukou, Cote d’Ivoire before her apartment was burgled by an Ivorian in September 2019. She landed in jail after refusing a settlement from an Ivorian police officer on the burgled items.
Unfortunately, Babalola died on Sunday, 14 November, after reportedly contracting an infection in prison. Dabiri-Erewa added that the deceased was not involved in human trafficking despite using the name ‘Becky Paul’ while in Ivory Coast.
She said, “We wouldn’t know because she is dead now, maybe she was afraid. But whatever the case, she was not involved in human trafficking.”