The Federal Government has demanded an investigation and autopsy following the death of Itunu Olajumoke Babalola, a Nigerian trader, who died in a Cote d’ Ivoire prison on Sunday for a crime she did not commit.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) on Monday.
Itunu, 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.
It was Hundeyin who also announced the report of her demise in a Twitter post on Sunday.
“I have just received a message from Cote d’Ivoire about Itunu Babalola. She is still in prison in Abidjan where she has contracted a serious infection and apparently she is dying. All those promises by NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri, OYSG etc – audio. She’s finally dying,” Hundeyin had written on the microblogging site on Saturday.
The journalist then confirmed the heartbreaking news on Sunday, writing: “Itunu is dead. She died this night. Just confirmed.”
The news led to an output of outage 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, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman of NIDCOM, denied the allegations that Itunu was abandoned by the Nigerian government in Cote d’ Ivoire.
According to a statement signed by NIDCOM’s Head of Media, Dabiri-Erewa said the government followed up on the case even though she was convicted and sentenced by the host country’s judiciary.
She stated that it was Nigeria’s diplomatic mission in the country that paid for Itunu’s medical bill when she contracted an illness, which she said was diabetes.
The NIDCOM boss added that the Nigerian mission made part payment to a lawyer it engaged to appeal her conviction.
The statement partly read: “The staff of the Nigeria mission had also visited Itunu in prison, a distance of over four hours from Abidjan.
“While the appeal case was on , Itunu was said to have complications from diabetes and was rushed to the hospital.
“The fees for the treatment was paid by the Nigerian mission through the lawyer whose services were engaged by the mission; unfortunately, she died suddenly after a few days of admission at the Hospital.
“The Federal government of Nigeria has demanded for full autopsy on the sudden and mysterious death of Ìtùnú Babalola, a Nigerian, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Côte Divoire for alleged human trafficking.
“Her death, will, however, not stop the appeal in court in order to vindicate her of the charges against her.”
Itunu 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.
BREAKING: UK suspends visitor visa applications for Nigeria
The British High Commission says it will “pause making decisions” on visitor visa applications from all red list countries, including Nigeria.
The decision was announced in a statement issued on Sunday by the commission, noting that, there is a different travel guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The suspension of visitors visa for Nigeria comes barely 18 hours after the UK added Nigeria to its travel red list as a result of concerns over the Omicron COVID variant.
“To support the UK Government’s aim to protect public health from COVID-19 and associated variants of concern (VOC), UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) will pause making decisions on visitor visa applications in all red list countries, including Nigeria, until travel restrictions are lifted,” the statement reads.
“Visit visas cover travel to the UK for tourism, visiting family and friends, undertaking short-term business activities (for example, attending meetings), undertaking short-term studies (under 6 months), taking part in research or exchange programmes as an academic, medical reasons (for example, receiving private medical treatment).
“If you apply for a visit visa in a red list country and you meet the UK Immigration Rules, your application will be paused. You will not receive a decision on your visit visa application whilst red list travel restrictions remain in place.
“You will not be able to request a refund of your visa fee once you have given your biometrics at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). If you already hold a valid visit visa and are intending to travel to England as a visitor from a red list country, you will not be allowed to enter.
“Separate guidance is available for travellers entering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. See https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/red-list-of-countries-and-territories.”
The commission also said visas or entry permits from red list countries will only be issued where there are compelling and compassionate circumstances.
“There are only very limited exemptions to travel and entry requirements for critical workers and medical and compassionate cases,” the statement reads.
“If you have submitted a visit visa application and you do not wish to withdraw, we will continue to hold your application.
“If you choose to continue with your visa application, you will not receive a decision on your visit visa whilst red list travel restrictions remain in place.”
Persons interested in applying on compassionate grounds can find more information on the process here.
Student’s Death: 10 Top Things To Know About Lagos Anti-cultism Law
With the recent death of Sylvester Oromoni, a student of a private school in Lagos, there have been various reactions from Nigerians calling for a thorough investigation by the state government.
To some Nigerians, cultism cannot be wished away as it relates to the death of Sylvester, but Dowen College thinks otherwise even though, it has expressed support for proper investigations by the authorities.
With Nigerians talking about cultism and its impact on the youth of the country, it is worthy of note that the Lagos State House of Assembly under the leadership of Speaker Mudashiru Obasa had earlier in February 2021, passed the anti-cultism bill, which Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu later assented to.
Below are 10 highlights of the law:
1. 21-years jail term: The law stipulates a jail term of 21 years for anyone found to be a member of a cult group or solicits for members of an unlawful society. The same punishment goes for persons who attend meetings of a cult group as well as those who carry out acts capable of endangering the lives of residents.
2. The law states that 15 years in jail will be meted on persons forming an unlawful society or cult. The same fate will befall anyone who allows a meeting of cultists to be held in any property under his control.
3. For compelling anyone to become a member of a secret cult, a criminal will spend 15 yrs in jail. If violence leading to physical harm is used for this purpose, the punishment will be a jail term of 25 years.
4. One is regarded as a cultist if he or she is found with insignia, banner, documents, or any other item belonging to such an illegal group.
5. When a suspected cultist is found with a firearm or a person who is armed is caught in the process of trying to compel someone else to join a cultist group, they will be made to face a 15-year jail term.
6. It is 21 years for you if, as a member of a secret cult or such illegal group, you set fire or use any deadly object in such a manner as to endanger the health and/or property of any person(s). Such deadly objects can also be acid or any potent chemical.
7. You are also liable to a 21-year jail term if, as a suspected cultist, you arrange or order a fellow cultist to avenge, retaliate or injure anyone within a premises in the state.
8. A student can only join associations registered with the student affairs department of his or her academic institution.
9. Any student who joins an unlawful group is liable on conviction to a term of two years imprisonment.
10. Whoever aids or protect a cultist is guilty of an offence and is in danger of being sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Presidency: Ndigbo Ready To Kneel For Fulani, Yoruba, Others
Former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, has said the Igbo are ready to kneel to be given a chance in the coming 2023 presidential election.
According to daily Trust, Ezeife, while speaking at the United for Better Nigeria Initiative (UBNI) National Convention, in Abuja on Saturday, said federal character is the recipe of fairness and equity
He said: “I found Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and other groups in this place talking about the need for federal character. If you do it that way, there will be unity; if there is fairness, equity, justice, you will have unity and progress.
“The Igbo man does not kneel down, but this time, we are prepared to kneel down to every part of Nigeria, every group, every ethnic group in Nigeria, we are prepared to even prostrate because we believe in this country.”
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