Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairperson, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, has said the late Itunu Babalola, the Nigerian lady who died in an Ivorian prison, did not report her plight early enough to the Nigerian Commission in Ivory Coast.
Babalola’s case became public in March 2021 and she died on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, after suffering an infection while still in prison for a crime she didn’t commit.
Following her death, Nigerians called out the Nigerian government, specifically the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) for not acting earlier to get her out of jail.
Reacting during an interview on Arise TV, Abike Dabiri explained 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.”
Abike added that when her case was made public, the Nigerian Ambassador to Ivory Coast, Martin Adamu, immediately swung into action.
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.”
Itunu, an Oyo State indigene, was working as a trader 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.