The Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has given a lame excuse for Nigerian government’s failure to prevent the death of 23-year-old citizen, Itunu Babalola, wrongly incarcerated in Cote d’Ivoire prison.
In an interview with BBC Pidgin, Abike explained that Babalola should have reached out to the Nigerian commission in the country immediately after she observed that her property was stolen.
According to her, the Mission only got to know about the case after Itunu had been arrested, charged to court and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. She said Itunu had been in prison for two years before her father, Abayomi Babalola, reached out to NIDCOM.
She, however, said the Nigerian government has called for an autopsy to be conducted on the corpse, promising that after this, the body of Itunu will be brought to Nigeria.
Abike also stated that staff members of the Nigerian Mission in the host country had to deal with identification issues as Itunu Babalola had filed a case with the name — Becky Paul.
She said, “Nigerian government has requested for an autopsy of the lady. Autopsy will take a while before it’s ready, they will examine the body, what has happened.
“The staff of the Nigerian mission in Nigeria have spoken with Itunu’s father that he should be patient, when that’s done, the dead body will be brought to Nigeria because we requested for an investigation into the cause of her death. We want to be sure it’s what they claim it is — diabetes.
“Another thing is, they have asked for her identity, her name is actually Itunu Babalola but she used the name Becky Paul to go to court, so there’s an issue of mixed identity — are we talking about Itunu Babalola or Becky Paul, those were questions our staff had to answer. Over there, her name is Becky Paul but her real name is Itunu Babalola.
“Once the autopsy has been concluded, her corpse will be brought back to Nigeria and we already told Baba Itunu this. Some claimed he will have to pay for the repatriation but no, we will handle that.
“Secondly, if they had reached out to the commission earlier… Itunu had been in prison for two years before we got to know about it. If we had been informed earlier, the Mission would have intervened.
“Part of what we tell our people is when they go to a foreign land and such issues come up, go to the Nigerian Embassy and report, you may go there and not get what you want but at least, you know you went there but she had been in prison for two years, she had gone to court, sentenced to ten years imprisonment and had been there for two years before her father reached out to us.
”The Nigerian commission had started working, got a lawyer, paid the lawyer and the case was about to start when this issue came up. When she was taken to the hospital, mission paid so we did our part. The Nigerian government tried but we are not God.
“What is left now is, an investigation into what really killed her? Once we know that, her corpse will be brought home and we will stand by the family to bury Itunu. The Oyo State government will also intervene. And we pray that God will console the family over this very painful loss. We had tried our best to get her out of prison.”
Itunu lost her life on Sunday night, while in detention after fighting tirelessly to prove her innocence against her detention by the Ivorian police.
She was framed up by the police after refusing to collect N100,000 bribe for stolen items during a theft in her house.
She had reported that one of the burglars was suspected to be a close relative of a top police official.
The Ivorian police then ended up framing her up for the crime she did not commit when she refused to be compromised.
Itunu was said to have died of diabetes after going into a coma on Friday, November 12, 2021.
It also disclosed that Itunu finally died in a hospital in Bondoukou, North Central Cote d’Ivoire, on Sunday, November 14, 2021.