The Nigerian government through the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, has demanded a detailed autopsy to be carried out on the late Nigerian woman, Itunu Babalola who died in a prison in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire after she was convicted for a crime she knew nothing about.
NIDCOM made the call on Monday following several reports that the woman had died from a contracted infection that she suffered while in the custody of the Ivorians.
An investigative journalist, David Hundeyin made it known on his Twitter page that the 23-year-old lady gave up the ghost on Sunday night.
Before her death, the Ivorian police had allegedly threatened and eventually resolved to deal with Itunu Babalola who had reported a case of theft to them earlier in October 2019.
She had also refused to collect a bribe of ₦100,000 which was offered to her for her stolen items.
It was learnt that the suspected burglar was a close relative of a top police officer.
The police, instead of charging the suspected burglar to court, had decided to boycott the case hence the N100,000 bribe.
According to reports, police authorities allegedly prepared trumped-up charges against the innocent lady and threw her into detention after she insisted on getting justice.
During this period, journalists, activists and concerned bodies had called on the Nigerian government to intervene in Babalola’s case so that she would be released from the detention of the Ivorian police.
The Nigerian Government, through NIDCOM and the Nigerian Mission in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire had also said that its investigation proved Itunu Babalola to be innocent of the charges against her stating that she was framed up the Ivorian government.
The government added that the former prosecutor in Cote D’Ivoire in collaboration with the police twisted the case against Babalola and accused the woman of human trafficking, leading to her conviction for 10 years, out of which she had unjustly served two years.
Meanwhile, Itunu Babalola whose life came to an abrupt end on Sunday night had yet to get justice.
NIDCOM, however on Monday, via a statement issued by its Head of Media and Public Relations Unit, Abdul Rahman Adekunle Balogun, which was obtained by Sahara Reporters, demanded a detailed investigation into the death of the innocent and justice-seeking Nigerian lady.
The commission described her death as a “tragic blow” which came suddenly at a point when the measures were embarked on to facilitate her release.
“The Federal government of Nigeria has demanded full autopsy on the sudden and mysterious death of Itunu Babalola, a Nigerian sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Côte D’Ivoire for alleged human trafficking.
“This was contained in a statement signed by the Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa and released by the Commission’s Head of Media, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, which stated that Itunu’s case was drawn to the attention of NIDCOM about five months ago.
“Dabiri-Erewa described the death of Itunu as a tragic blow, at a time the Nigerian mission in Côte D’Ivoire had paid and engaged the services of a lawyer to handle Itunu’s appeal case.
“Unfortunately, Itunu died abruptly while all hands were on deck to seek both legal and diplomatic intervention for her by Nigeria.
“Itunu was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for an offence she did not apparently commit.
“Itunu had accused an Ivorian of robbery at her residence and insisted on filing a case against him.
“The accused who happens to be related to an Ivorian policeman asked her to drop the case, but she refused.
“Itunu went ahead to file charges against him and allegedly used a different name (not her real name) to file the case and somehow a case of robbery which she filed mysteriously turned to a case of human trafficking against her.
“She was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment while 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.
“The staff of the Nigeria mission had also visited Itunu in prison, a distance of over four hours from Abidjan.
“While the appeal case was on, Itunu was said to have complications from diabetes and was rushed to the hospital.
“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.”