The Nigerian Government has demanded a full autopsy on the ‘sudden and mysterious’ death of Itunnu Babalola, a Nigerian lady sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for alleged human trafficking in Cote d’Ivoire.
Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, made the demand while condemning the death of the lady said to have been wrongfully jailed.
In a statement by the commission’s spokesman, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, NIDCOM revealed that Itunnu’s case caught its attention about five months ago.
For Dabiri-Erewa, the death of the lady was a tragic blow that came at a time the Nigerian mission in Cote d’Ivoire had engaged the services of a lawyer to handle her appeal case.
“Unfortunately, Itunnu died abruptly while all hands were on deck to seek both legal and diplomatic intervention for her by Nigeria,” she was quoted as saying in the statement shared on social media on Tuesday.
“Itunnu was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for an offence she did not apparently commit,” the statement read. “Itunnu had accused an Ivorian of a 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 insisted on getting justice. Itunnu went ahead to file charges against him and allegedly used a different 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 Côte 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.”
According to NIDCOM, staff of the Nigerian mission had visited Itunnu in prison situated in the hinterland – a distance of over four hours from Abidjan.
While the appeal case was ongoing, Itunnu was said to have complications from diabetes and was rushed to the hospital.
The fee for her treatment, according to the agency, was paid by the Nigerian mission through the lawyer whose services were engaged by the mission.
But the lady later died after a few days of admission at the hospital.
“Her death will, however, not stop the appeal in court in order to vindicate her of the charges against her,” Dabiri-Erewa said.