Nigerian sentenced Ìtùnú Babalola to 20 years imprisonment in Côte Divoire for alleged human trafficking has sparked outrage and wild condemnation just as the Federal Government has demanded for full autopsy report.
A statement by the Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa stated that Itunnu’s case was drawn to the attention of NIDCOM about five months ago. She described the death as a tragic blow, at a time the Nigerian mission in Côte Divoire had paid and engaged the services of a lawyer to handle Itunnu’s appeal case, “unfortunately, Itunnu died abruptly while all hands were on deck to seek both legal and diplomatic intervention for her by Nigeria. Itunnu was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for an offence she did not apparently commit. Itunnu had accused an Ivorian of robbery at her residence and insisted on filing a case against him.”
Itunnu filed 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 Divoire 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.
“Her death, will however, not stop the appeal in court in order to vindicate her of the charges against her,” she assured.
Regardless, Nigerians on social media have continued to react to the death of Itunu Babalola. Dr. Funmilayo, who is based in the UK said: “They abandoned and neglected Itunu and now she is dead. This lady was wrongly jailed for a crime she never committed. She reported a theft against her and she got locked up for the same theft she went to report….She was neglected, abandoned and left to languish.”
A lawyer, Dr. Ayo Sogunro, wrote: “What is the value of a Nigerian life anywhere?” while Mr. Demola Olarenwaju said: “Understand that every failure of government kills the fire of patriotism in citizens, one candle at a time. Itunu Babalola didn’t just die alone – her death has snuffed out the light of hope in those who dared to believe that just maybe this time, Nigeria would turn up differently.”
Another Nigerian, Dr. Aloy Chife said: “The death of Itunu is a most horrific but avoidable tragedy. I live abroad and understand very well the general lack of care often shown Nigerians abroad by their government, so one always tries to do one’s best regarding matters like this.”
A pilot, Mr. Arinze Odira said: “If Itunu was an American, she wouldn’t had died in prison in a foreign land. Nigerians are seeking PR in other countries because it seems we place no value on human life down here. Besides awarding contracts and moving around with SUVs and DSS officials, what else do our leaders do?” while Chukwudebelu said: “Religion has a bright future in an Africa full of failing states, because that is one of the few places one sees the semblance of a social contract. Churches will not abandon their members the same way the Nigerian government abandoned Itunu.”
Dr. Chinonso Egbema said: “What is painful about Itunu’s death is that the people who did nothing to secure her release will wake up iron their suits and go to work like nothing happened. No regard for life.”
Human rights lawyer, Abdul Mahmud tweeted: “It’s only an irresponsible government that cares little for the citizens abroad. Worse still, it is only an irresponsible government that doesn’t provide consular assistance for its citizens abroad.
Nigeria fails its citizens. Itunu is the latest example of that failure. Remember May 1981? Here, five soldiers were murdered inside Nigeria by Camerounian gendarmes. Shehu Shagari expressed shock without taking action. It took the actions of UNILAG and Yabatech students who stormed Cameroun embassy in Lagos and destroyed it for Shagari to act… Nigeria abandoning Nigerians is as old as our memories of Zebrudaya’s Imo River. When Nigeria kills its citizens at home, foreigners feel the compulsion to kill Nigerians abroad.”
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