David Hundeyin (@DavidHundeyin) took to his Twitter account to narrate Itunu’s ordeal. In a series of tweets, David said the Bondoukou-based trader’s ordeal began after she returned home from a visit to her sick mom who lives in Ibadan, a Southwest State in Nigeria.
Shortly before Itunu was due to travel, her flat was burgled and items worth more than N300,000 were stolen including her TV and gas cooker.
Despite the blow, she decided to travel anyway after reporting the incident to the police. She returned from her trip in October 2019.
Upon returning, she was informed by a lodger she left in her flat that the thief had been identified.
The thief turned out to be a 14-year-old boy who lived nearby. His embarrassed dad apologized and admitted that his son was a habitual thief. The items had already been sold.
Itunu reported this to the police who told her to return on Tuesday, Nov 5, 2019. The appointment held on Wednesday, November 6 that same year.
There she says, the DPO informed her that the suspect was in fact his nephew. He then offered her a settlement worth roughly N100,000 to drop the case.
Itunu refused the settlement, citing the disparity between the value of the stolen items and what was offered. Next, she says, the visibly enraged DPO tried everything to frustrate her into dropping the case, including making her travel to Abidjan for a police appointment.
On her arrival at Abidjan, Itunu hired a lawyer to attend the appointment with her, all to no avail as the police refused to cooperate. Frustrated, she returned home to Bondoukou.
Around 5PM the following day, a convoy of police vehicles showed up outside her house and publicly arrested her.
On getting to the station, she was charged with theft (the theft of her own items) in her own apartment.
She spent the next 4 days in police custody, after which she was taken out of the cell and offered her freedom if she agreed to sign papers dropping her case but Itunu rejected the offer and chose to go to court instead.
Itunu says she then overheard an officer saying "Elle est une Nigériane? Elle mourra ici!" meaning ("She's a Nigerian? She will die here!").
The decision to go to court turned out to be a monumental error of judgment compounded by her own naivety about the Ivorian justice system.
The (French-speaking) court did not allow her adequate legal representation or give her a chance to properly state her case. She was speedily convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
Further complicating this was her decision to identify herself to the court as "Becky Paul". She says she did this to avoid getting her family name mixed up in bad news and potentially upsetting her aged mom.
As a result, for the past one year and 4 months since her conviction, Itunu alias "Becky Paul" has become, to all intents and purposes, a forgotten inmate at the notorious Maison d'arrêt et de Correction Bondoukou (Bondoukou Remand and Correction Facility).
Meanwhile, AllNews Nigeria reports that the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission has reacted to the matter stating that investigations will kickstart soon for justice to be served
"We will investigate and get back with our findings. Our Mission in Abidjan will also help out.
"The Commission has been to several countries such as Togo, Benin Republic, Brazil, South-Africa, etc to facilitate the release of some Nigerians wrongfully arrested and incarcerated".
We will investigate and get back with our findings.— Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (@nidcom_gov) March 15, 2021
Our Mission in Abidjan will also help out.
The Commission has been to several countries such as Togo, Benin Republic, Brazil, South-Africa, etc to facilitate the release of some Nigerians wrongfully arrested and incarcerated.