It has been revealed that Mr. Abayomi Babalola, the father of 23-year-old Nigerian lady, Itunu Babalola who was wrongfully incarcerated in Cote D'Ivoire, has said the family wants justice.
The grieving father, who called on world leaders to come to his aid, said there is more to the death of his daughter as she was never prone to falling sick.
He said he wants to know what truly happened to Itunu which made her vomit blood before her death as he also queried the period of sentence for the crime levelled against her.
According to him, Itunu was a kind-hearted young lady who loved and cherished her family and friends.
He said, in an interview with BBC pidgin, “My name is Abayomi, Babalola, father of Itunu Babalola. Her mother was sick, she had a stroke and she was assisting me but as a youth, she wanted to work, but where she went to is too far.
“The last time we spoke, she said I should come and see her at the place where she is, and I said of course. She also said they might likely release her before December and when she gets released, she will come to Nigeria.
“Truly in 2019, she came home to Nigeria. She was here for three or four weeks, but while here, she received a call from there that thieves broke into her apartment. She never stayed in Burkina Faso, she had a roommate, so her roommate called her and told her she knows the person who broke into the apartment saying she can identify the thief.
“When Itunu got there, she went to the police station to report the case but the problem was, the DPO of the police station is the elder brother of the thief. So the DPO told my daughter that he will give her N100, 000 but my daughter said no that she wants her property back because it's worth more than N100, 000, she said it was worth N300, 000.
“The DPO asked her to leave that he would get back to her. On the third day, the DPO and some other police officers came with a young girl that they've been looking for the girl for the past one month or so that Itunu harboured the girl but my daughter said she had never met the girl, that there was nothing like that.
“So they turned the case from theft to a child trafficking case. She called me and told me that she was arrested, I was like she shouldn't worry that she would be released. I thought it's like Nigeria where someone goes to the police station and the person will get justice.
“Later, she told me she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. They took her to a very far prison, it's like going from Ibadan to Ilorin but I couldn't travel due to COVID-19 so I called upon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman of NIDCOM, so she also said am I aware there's COVID as of May 2020. It was during the lockdown but she promised that the commission would work on it.
“Later, as of May this year, I had the link to meet Honourable Buhari, a member of the House of Representatives and Honourable Teslim Folarin, they said they would take up the matter and escalate to Abike Dabiri, they all promised to work on it. They also said they would sponsor a lawyer to look into the issue. That was what I held on to, I have been talking to Itunu.
“As of Wednesday last week, I spoke with her and she said she was suffering, that a woman came to the place where she was, victimising her. I told her not to worry, that she should manage because she will soon be out of there.
“I spoke with Abike Dabiri and she assured me that the lawyer that would take up the case had already been paid, that they would appeal and the case would be taken from the prison to the capital and that she would be released before December.
“That was what I thought before I got a call on Sunday evening and the person was asking me if I heard from her. I told the person that I called her that same week so the person said he learnt she was sick and in the hospital. I was surprised, Itunu never falls sick. I was surprised to even learn that she had diabetes.
“On Monday, one of my children went online and saw the news on Facebook, I cried. Then someone called my brother and said they saw a video of where Itunu was being pushed on a hospital trolley and blood was coming out of her mouth and nose. I said why?
“The last time she came home, when I asked her when would she come back, she said Daddy don't worry, when you need something, call me. She said she would help me, she promised so many things. Even when she had difficulties over there, I called her.
“On September 9 which was my birthday even while in prison, Itunu organised a caterer to bake cake for me, food and the rest that they brought to the house for me.
“Why should something like this happen to my daughter? I don't understand. I call on the world to come to my aid. Don't let me suffer in vain. This is suffering. I prayed, put in all my efforts to get her back, I was expecting that I would celebrate her return. I never knew it's her corpse that would be brought back.
”I want justice for my daughter, I want them to investigate the cause of the death and the alleged offence, is it worth sentencing her to 20 years imprisonment? She went to report to a police station and they turned the case around against her, is that how it's done all over the world?
“My daughter was not sick, maybe when they saw that the Nigerian government wanted to take up the matter because Abike Dabiri said they'd paid the lawyer that would handle the matter. I think it was when the issue had gone out of hand that the lawyer was called upon and the ambassador because if it was not so, there was no way she would be vomiting blood while on the trolley.
“Nigerian government went there and investigated and got to know the truth that my daughter was implicated.
“When I got to know about Itunu's death, I called Abike Dabiri's PRO and he said they already heard about it but that he didn't know how to break the news to me. I called Abike Dabiri also and she promised to take up the matter. She asked me if there was anything I wanted, I said they should bring back the corpse for me. Itunu was a loving child, she was never biased and she was a very responsible young lady.”
Itunu lost her life on Sunday night, while in detention after fighting tirelessly to prove her innocence against her detention by the Ivorian police.
She was framed up by the police after refusing to collect a N100,000 bribe for stolen items during a theft in her house.
She had reported that one of the burglars was suspected to be a close relative of a top police official.
The Ivorian police then ended up framing her up for the crime she did not commit when she refused to be compromised.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian embassy revealed that Itunu died of diabetes and sadly went into a coma on Friday, November 12, 2021.
It also disclosed that Itunu finally died in a hospital in Bondoukou, North Central Cote D'Ivoire, on Sunday, November 14, 2021.
In the statement titled: "'THE DEMISE OF MISS BECKY PAUL A.K.A ITUNU BABALOLA WHICH OCCURED ON SUNDAY 14, NOVEMBER 2021' issued on Tuesday, the embassy also regretted that the death of the young lady was announced at a period when efforts to rescue her started bearing fruits.”
The embassy however noted that with the knowledge of her family members, an autopsy would be conducted to ascertain the actual cause of her death.
The statement read, "We regret to announce the demise of Miss Becky Paul, also known as Itunu Babalola, which occurred at the Military Hospital in Abidjan, on Sunday 14th November, 2021
"The deceased had been diagnosed with diabetes and went into a diabetic coma in a hospital in Bondoukou, north central Cote d'Ivoire, on Friday 12th November, 2021.
“This precipitated her immediate transfer to the Military Hospital in Abidjan. She eventually gave up the struggle on Sunday evening, after experiencing difficulties in breathing. With the consent of her family, an autopsy will be performed to determine the true cause of death.
“It is recalled that Miss Babalola had been sentenced to a ten-year prison term, following a conviction on allegations of human trafficking. Officials of the Embassy had paid her a Consular visit to not only ascertain the state of her well-being but also consider options for a review of the matter. Till her death, she had vehemently protested her innocence, an action that compelled the Mission to seek legal representation to appeal the judgment, on her behalf. These efforts were beginning to bear fruit, as the case file, with the efforts of the Lawyer, had been transferred to the Court of Appeal in Abidjan.
“We were anticipating the commencement of the appeal process before her untimely death. The Embassy in Abidjan is in communication with her family in Nigeria, and is working with them to ascertain their preferred next course of action regarding her interment.
"The Mission has also apprised its host authorities of this lamentable development and indeed, registered the displeasure of the Federal Government at the seemingly apathetic manner in which Miss Babalola's case had been treated.
"The Embassy extends its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased and prays for the peaceful repose of her soul."