Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) yesterday said it had established that a Nigerian, Itunu Babalola was wrongfully charged and incarcerated in Cote D’voire.
A statement signed by Gabriel Odu of the Media, Public Relations and Protocols Unit of the Commission said: “Following painstaking investigations by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and the Nigeria Mission in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, it was now confirmed that Itunu Babalola, a Nigerian living in Abidjan was wronglyfully charged and incarcerated for a crime she did not commit.”
He said the Chairman/CEO Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa revealed that the Charge D’Affaires of the Nigerian Mission in Côte D’Ivoire, Mr. Mohammed Gana sent officials of the mission to Bondoukou, a city eight hours outside Abidjan when the case was brought to his attention.
Dabiri-Erewa said plans were underway to engage the services of a legal luminary to prove the innocence of Itunu Babalola at the Court of Appeal after the accused had spent two years out of a 10-year jail term for an offense she did not commit.
The NIDCOM boss said reports had indicated that the new prosecutor assigned to the case had given assurances of a fair and unbiased review and retrial of the case to secure the release of Itunu Babalola.
Dabiri-Erewa said: “ Reports also allegedly indicate that the former prosecutor in collaboration with the police twisted the case and accused Itunu Babalolo of human trafficking hence her conviction for 20 years although the sentence was reduced to 10 years from which she has served two years so far.”
She revealed that Babalola whose family is from Oyo State, Nigeria, has been living in Bondoukou, Cote d’Ivoire for a long time but got entangled in a legal battle when she reported the burglary of her house to the Police
She however said on efforts made to secure her bail, the prosecutor said it was only the court that could grant her bail as she had already been convicted, promising that: “We will continue to monitor the case as it unfolds.”