The Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, on Thursday in Abuja, said the Nigerian government is still seeking justice for Itunu Babalola, a 21-year-old trader who was wrongfully jailed in Ivory Coast and died in custody late last year.
He also said that staff members of the Nigerian Embassy in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, paid out of their pockets to procure legal services for Itunu Babalola, who was wrongfully jailed in the country.
Dada disclosed this during the 36th Session of the State House Briefing holding at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In November 2021, it was reported that Babalola, who was based in Bondoukou, Cote d’Ivoire, was jailed after her apartment was burgled by an Ivorian in September 2019.
Babalola had reported the incident to the police but the Divisional Police Officer informed her that the suspect was his nephew.
He reportedly offered her a settlement worth roughly N100,000 to drop the case, an amount lesser than the N300,000 worth of stolen effects.
Babalola was subsequently arrested when she refused the settlement, charged to court for human trafficking and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
However, millions of Nigerians were shocked on November 14, 2021, when a journalist, David Hundeyin, who had been following the case, gave serial updates that Babalola contracted an infection in the Ivorian prison which led to her eventual death.
The new update came eight months after the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission promised to ensure justice was served on the matter and secure the lady’s freedom. Yet Babalola remained behind bars in the Francophone West African nation.
The development came with widespread criticism with Nigerians blaming the Abike Dabiri-Erewa-led NIDCOM for not securing Babalola’s release early enough.
Responding to a question by our correspondent on Thursday, the Foreign Minister of State said: “We’re talking about a sovereign nation and this matter was taken to a court. The only recourse we have as a nation is to go back to that court to appeal.
“We have gone to court to appeal that process. It was in that process that she fell sick and died. We insisted that an autopsy be done on her body, which has been done. We are still following the appeal in court. It is their law which we have to respect. Again, diplomacy is the only way to go. We have the tacit supper of the House Committee on Diaspora.
“At the time, the consulate staff of the Nigerian Embassy contributed from their pocket to assist this lady who was in difficulty. They used it to procure legal services for the treatment meted to her. And we know that the case is still in court. The ambassador also paid out of his own money.”