It is important for the Nigerian government to ensure Itunnu Babalola gets justice even in death, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa said on Friday.
Itunnu – who was in her early 20’s – died recently while serving jail term in Cote d’Ivoire for human trafficking – a crime she was said to be wrongfully accused of.
Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), gave an assurance that the government would do everything possible to ensure justice was served in the matter.
“We don’t expect that this case is just going to end like that,” she said while featuring as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily. “An autopsy is being done, we expect the result. The case must go on so that even in death, she must get justice.
“NIDCOM has written to Interpol. A policeman was involved in Cote d’Ivoire, so they should look into it. What was the relationship? What happened? Maybe they have their own story; how did burglary turn to human trafficking, whether she was Becky Paul or Itunu.
“Also, the office of the Attorney-General is following the picture, and I hope that Nigeria as a country will ensure that it didn’t just let this go away just like that. We must get justice for the poor girl.”
The NIDCOM chief, while quoting the father of the victim, said Itunnu was badly treated while she was held in a prison said to be hours away from Abidjan – the capital of Ivory Coast.
According to her, the victim had been in prison for about two years before her father raised an alarm over the plight of his daughter after all efforts to secure her release proved abortive.
“She has been in jail for two years, … all of a sudden burglary became human trafficking and the name she used for the case in Cote d’Ivoire was Becky Paul,” Dabiri-Erewa added.
“She was in court for two years before the father informed the diaspora commission and the Nigeria Mission in Cote d’Ivoire.”
Narrating the events that led to the sudden death of Itunnu in a statement on Tuesday, the NIDCOM chief lamented that she died abruptly while all hands were on deck to seek both legal and diplomatic intervention for her.
Itunnu, she stated, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for an offence she did not apparently commit. She was said to have accused an Ivorian of a robbery at her residence and insisted on filing a case against him.
The accused, said to be related to an Ivorian policeman, had asked her to drop the case but she insisted on getting justice. Upon filing charges against him and allegedly used a different name to file the case, a case of robbery suddenly turned into a case of human trafficking against the complainant.
Thereafter, Itunnu was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.