Thursday, December 2, 2021

Itunu Babalola had diabetes but died mysteriously: Abike Dabiri-Erewa

Ms Babalola died in Ivorian prison more than five months after Ms Dabiri-Erewa personally promised to help her get justice.

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

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has revealed that recently deceased Itunu Babalola had been suffering from diabetes. However, Ms Dabiri-Erewa described her demise as mysterious. 

This information was contained in a statement released by Ms Dabiri-Erewa’s office via spokesman Abdur-Rahman Balogun on Monday. 

“While the appeal case was on , Itunu was said to have complications from diabetes and was rushed to the hospital,” NIDCOM said in the statement,  “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.”

David Hundeyin, a freelance investigative journalist, brought the details of Ms Babalola’s case on social media in March. This garnered the attention of NIDCOM and Ms Dabiri-Erewa who had personally said the Nigerian embassy in Abidjan would handle Ms Babalola’s case. 

The press statement released on Monday from the commission claims the matter was brought to its attention five months ago, in July. 

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.

Ms Dabiri-Erewa had earlier declined comments from The Gazette on what actions the commission had taken to secure the release of Ms Babalola. The latest statement does not outline its actions, but rather rehashed the events and facts leading up to Ms Babalola’s tragic demise. 

The statement notes that Ms Babalola was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment and “the Nigerian mission in Cote d’Ivoire 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.”

Ms Babalola’s ordeal started in 2019 after her apartment was burgled by an Ivorian. 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.

Her death was announced by Mr Hundeyin on Sunday evening. 

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