#JusticeForItunu: Itunu Babalola ‘Illegally Jailed’ 20 Years In Côte d’Ivoire

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Nigerians have begun demanding justice for a young Nigerian woman Itunu Babalola allegedly jailed in Côte d’Ivoire after reporting a burglary incident, Igbere TV reports.

Journalist David Hundeyin called attention to Ms Babalola’s plight on Monday via Twitter.

He said:
“In September 2019, 21-year-old Itunu, a trader based in Bondoukou, Cote d’Ivoire traveled to Nigeria to visit her sick mom in Ibadan.

“Unknown to her, her return to Cote d’Ivoire would mark the start of a harrowing ordeal in a notorious Ivorian prison, which is still ongoing.”

“Shortly before Itunu was due to travel, her flat was burgled and items worth more than N300,000 were stolen including her TV and gas cooker,” he continued.

“Despite the blow, she decided to travel anyway after reporting the incident to the police. She returned from her trip in October 2019.

“The thief turned out to be a 14 year-old boy who lived nearby. His embarrassed dad apologised and admitted that his son was a habitual thief. The items had already been sold.”

Mr Hundeyin said Babalola reported this to the police who told her to return on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, but the appointment held on November 6.

He said Babalola was informed by the divisional police officer that the suspect was his nephew. The Nigerian was reportedly offered about N100,000 to drop the case.

“She refused the settlement, citing the disparity between the value of the stolen items and what was offered,” he said.

Hundeyin added that Babalola was then arrested and charged for theft of her own property.

“She was speedily convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Further complicating this was her decision to identify herself to the court as ‘Becky Paul,’” he said.

According to him, she did this to avoid getting her family name mixed up in bad news and potentially upsetting her aged mom.

Hundeyin called for assistance from Nigerian authorities, adding that Babalola had lost hope and attempted suicide twice.

Reacting to the report, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) tweeted:
“We will investigate and get back with our findings. Our Mission in Abidjan will also help out.

“The Commission has been to several countries such as Togo, Benin Republic, Brazil, South-Africa, etc to facilitate the release of some Nigerians wrongfully arrested and incarcerated.”

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