Itunu Olajumoke Babalola, a Nigerian trader, who died in a Cote d’ Ivoire prison, has been buried in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Babalola died on 14 November after reportedly contracting an ailment in an Ivorian prison, where she was serving time following a controversial case.
Her body had arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos on Friday at 11pm via Air Côte D’Ivoire and was conveyed to Oyo State.
She was subsequently buried on Saturday at the Sango Cemetery at 11:25am in the presence of representatives of the Chairman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Babalola, who was a trader, was arrested in 2019 after refusing to co-operate with a Divisional Police Officer in Cote d’ Ivoire to quash a theft case involving his nephew.
Her plight was brought to the fore by David Hundeyin, a Nigerian investigative journalist, on Twitter in March 2021.
Babalola was sentenced to 20 years in jail but was eventually reduced to 10 years. She had already spent one year and four months behind bars before her predicament came into the limelight.
The matter trended on Twitter as the hashtag: #JusticeForItunu, was used to further publicise the case and appeal for her release.
NIDCOM had on 19 March, while reacting to Hundeyin’s expose, said investigations it conducted revealed that Itunu, who was from Oyo State, was wrongly accused and prosecuted for a crime she did not commit.
According to the agency, its officials went to Bondoukou and uncovered the fact, noting that “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”.
It added that it tried to secure bail for Itunu but was told by the prosecutor that only the court can grant such a request as she has already been convicted.
However, it was Hundeyin who also announced the report of her demise in a Twitter post on 14 November
“Itunu is dead. She died this night. Just confirmed,” he had written on Twitter.
The news led to an output of outrage by Nigerians, who accused the Federal Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NIDCOM of abandoning a Nigerian citizen which it had confirmed was unjustly languishing in a foreign prison.
Reacting to the development, Dabiri-Erewa denied the allegations that Babalola was abandoned by the Nigerian government in Cote d’ Ivoire.