Monday, January 17, 2022

Forsaken by Dabiri-Erewa, wrongfully incarcerated Itunu Babalola dies in Côte d’Ivoire prison

“I will not do an interview through this medium to an anonymous person. Come to the office for a proper briefing,” Ms Dabiri-Erewa replied to Peoples Gazette.

• November 15, 2021
Itunu Babalola and Abike Dabiri-Erewa

Itunu Babalola, a Nigerian wrongfully imprisoned in Cote d’Ivoire on charges of human trafficking, is dead despite promises by Nigerians in Diaspora Commission’s boss Abike Dabiri-Erewa to secure her release.

Ms Babalola was said to have contracted an infection in prison, leading to her passing away.

The news of her demise was announced by Nigerian journalist David Hundeyin, who had initially brought her case to the attention of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM). 

“I will not do an interview through this medium to an anonymous person. Come to the office for a proper briefing,” Ms Dabiri-Erewa replied to Peoples Gazette when asked what actions she and her commission took to secure the release of Ms Babalola.

In a series of tweets on Sunday night, Mr Hundeyin confirmed the news of her death.  

“I 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,” Mr Hundeyin tweeted, “All those promises by NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri, OYSG, etc. – audio. She’s finally dying. Well done to the Nigerian government.” 

He added, “Well done to NIDCOM and everyone responsible for this another young Nigerian is biting the dust. Round of applause for all of you.”

Ms Babalola’s ordeal started in 2019 when an Ivorian had burgled her apartment. She reported the incident to the police, but DPO informed her that the suspect was his nephew. He reportedly offered her a settlement worth roughly N100,000 to drop the case, an amount lesser than the N300,000 worth of stolen effects.

Ms Babalola was subsequently arrested when she refused the settlement, charged to court and convicted of human trafficking, and sentenced to 20 years in jail before, later commuted to 10 years. She served two years out of the term before her demise.

In March, Mr Hundeyin brought the details of the case on social media. 

NIDCOM and Ms Dabiri-Erewa, the commission’s chair, had said the Nigerian embassy in Abidjan would handle Ms Babalola’s case. 

NiDCOM had said in a statement that the retrial of Ms Babalola was to commence under a new prosecutor, adding in June that it was actively involved with the Nigerian embassy to resolve Ms Babalola’s case. 

The commission also tweeted that funds for legal services had been provided, and the lawyer handling the case had visited Ms Babalola. 

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