Nigerians have taken to social media to express their outrage over the death of Itunu Babalola, a Nigerian woman who was wrongfully imprisoned.
Itunu Babalola, a 21-year-old trader from Oyo State, was said to be based in Bondoukou, Cote d’Ivoire. In September 2019, her apartment was broken into by an Ivorian, and she reported the incident to the police, but DPO informed her that the suspect was his nephew. He allegedly offered her a ₦100,000 settlement to drop the case, which was less than the ₦300,000 worth of stolen goods.
When Itunu Babalola refused the settlement, she was arrested, charged with human trafficking, and sentenced to ten years in prison.
In March 2021, a journalist named David Hundeyin shared Babalola’s storey on Twitter, and the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission stated that it was working to prove Itunu Babalola’s innocence.
The lady was charged and incarcerated for a crime she did not commit, according to NIDCOM, which is led by Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
“It is now confirmed that Itunu Babalola, a Nigerian living in Abidjan, was wrongfully charged and imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, following painstaking investigations by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and the Nigeria Mission in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.”
“Plans are in the works to hire a legal luminary to prove Itunu Babalola’s innocence at the Court of Appeal after she served two years of a ten-year sentence for an offence she did not commit,” the commission promised in a statement.
Many Nigerians, however, were taken aback on Sunday night when Hundeyin, who had been following the case, revealed that Itunu Babalola had contracted an infection while imprisoned in Ivory Coast. The journalist shared photos of a young woman being treated by medical personnel on a stretcher in an emergency situation.
Some were disappointed that Itunu Babalola remained imprisoned in the Francophone West African nation eight months after NIDCOM promised to ensure justice was served and the lady’s freedom.
When Hundeyin announced hours later that the young lady had passed away, many people were equally heartbroken.
“I just received a message about Itunu Babalola from Cote d’Ivoire. She is still imprisoned in Abidjan, where she has developed a serious infection and is reportedly dying. All of NIDCOM’s, Abike Dabiri’s, OYSG’s, and others’ promises – audio. Hundeyin wrote, “She’s finally dying.”
“Itunu is no longer alive. She passed away last night. He later tweeted, “Just confirmed.”
As of press time, his tweet had received over 1,100 retweets and over 3,500 comments, with many criticising NIDCOM for allegedly neglecting the lady.
“Nigeria does nothing for the citizens, especially the southerners,” @DavidHundeyin said, “but expects the citizens to love the country and uphold some magical patriotism.” Itunu, may you rest in peace. “My heartfelt condolences to her family.”
“This same government that abandoned Itunu to die will suddenly arrange and pay huge money to transport her corpse home,” @DrOlufunmilayo tweeted. They never had enough money to get her out of jail. They never had to fight for her energy. They never had the money to treat her.”
“Someone needs to raise a red flag about that country’s legal system!” @DanielRegha demanded that “someone call out the Nigerian government for not being able to help their citizens at home or abroad.”
“These days, I just feel bad for every Nigerian, including those in exile!” We’re in serious trouble! We were let down by the system!” @Petraandra2 bemoaned the situation.
“@abikedabiri, you once stated this girl ( Itunu Babalola) is in safe hands,” another Twitter user, @fvckgotti, said to the NIDCOM chair. You tweeted that the foreign ministry was on its way to Abidjan to save this lady. I’m not surprised when we fall prey/victims of circumstance even in our own country, let alone when we require assistance while we are away. “Damned heartbreak.”
Attempts to reach NIDCOM spokesman Abdulrahman Balogun for comment on the matter were unsuccessful as of press time.