The Federal government has described as pathetic, tragic and sad, the news of the execution of a Nigerian woman on Monday for drug-related offenses.
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said that two Pakistani men, a Yemeni man, and a Nigerian woman were executed on Monday for drug trafficking, bringing to 53, the number of people put to death this year.
Speaking to State House correspondents on Tuesday, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the victim would be the eighth Nigerian to be executed in Saudi Arabia for drug-related offenses in the last three years.
She said there are 20 more on death row for the same offense, that 12 had been sentenced for various jail terms in that country.
Dabiri-Erewa said it had been established that there were cases of airlines working hand-in hand with drug syndicates to put those drugs in the bags of unsuspecting pilgrims.
According to her, “so we have had cases where truly they didn’t commit the offence. We have appealed to the Saudi Authorities to make the trials fair, open and ensure that justice is done. Even if you are going to die, you will know that you die for an offence you committed.
“So, while we appeal to Nigerians going to Saudi Arabia, we know it is tough, obey the laws of the land. Even kolanut is treated as a drug. So we will continue to appeal to the Saudi Authorities to treat some cases with some form of leniency.
“Like I said, we have 20 of them in Saudi; this is the eighth to be executed and we are hopeful that maybe we will be able to save the others. So, it is pathetic, it is tragic but we will continue to appeal to Nigerians to obey the laws of the land where you are. However, we expect the trial to be fair, open and ensure that justice truly is done before somebody is sentenced to death.”
The presidential aide also described as disgraceful, the arrest of five Nigerians, for allegedly robbing a bureau de change in Sharjah of Dh2.3 million.
The men were caught on camera barging into the exchange and smashing the glass barrier between the customers and the staff, stealing the money in multiple currencies and fleeing.
Dabiri-Erewa, said the men were a disgrace and an embarrassment to the country, themselves and their families.
“The boys are a disgrace to this country and an embarrassment. So, if UAE decides to be hard on Nigerians then we will complain that they are hard on us. But we will continue to say that one bad apple should not spoil the bunch. Nigerians are hardworking and intelligent, so these few should not spoil the bunch because this has made news all over the UAE now.
“We are going to continue to name those who disgrace the country anywhere in the world and we will continue to appeal to Nigerians to be good ambassadors wherever they find themselves.”
On efforts being made to educate pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia following the connivance of some airlines with drugs syndicates, Dabiri-Erewa, said: “Since this law came into force where you ensure baggage are identified, it has reduced. The case I am talking about happened between 2016-2017. So it is important you identify your bags, take responsibility for your luggage.
“The Hajj Commission is also working with these airlines to ensure this is done because we do not want an innocent person to be jailed for an offence he or she did not commit.”
Asked if the Nigerian government is going to write a letter of protests to the Saudi Arabia authorities, the presidential aide said, “we have been doing that. The Nigerian consulate in Saudi Arabia has been talking to Saudi Arabia authorities but I think we need to take it to a higher level now, I mean with 20 on death row and this is the eighth to be killed, we need to engage with the Saudi Arabia authorities more than we have done in the past. With 20 Nigerians on death row, we maybe able to save those who did not carry out the crime. We know that drug issues in Saudi Arabia carry death penalty, but we will continue to ensure that we intervene properly on behalf of all our citizens to be sure that at least justice has been done.”
On what the government is doing to address the issue of the connivance with some airlines with drug syndicates planting drugs in the bags of unsuspecting pilgrims, Dabiri-Erewa said: “In particular, this is a fact. There are always cases when you get there you see something in your bag. So, it is now mandatory for these airlines and for all those traveling to ensure that you identify their bags before boarding. That has helped.
“It is important that if you are going to Saudi Arabia with any of these airlines, you identify your bags. We have had cases where you just get to Saudi Arabia and somebody will knock on your door that something was found in your bag. It is mandatory for these airlines to screen these bags before they board the passengers.
“The case of Saudi Arabia is particularly worrisome because maybe, some of them did not commit the crime. One Nigerian was freed not too long ago because of the intervention of our mission in Jeddah which turned out that he actually did not carry the drug. The embassy fully intervened and he was freed. There is one that had a court case and the embassy is fully involved and hopefully he too will be freed.
“The embassy is fully monitoring the trials but with Saudi, it is a bit difficult because our officials are not allowed to go to prison to see them. They were allowed once, so the embassy is continuously requesting to go to prison and see the Nigerians that are on death row and those that have been sentenced to prison for various offenses.
“While we condemn drug trafficking in all its ramification, let’s ensure we get justice for every Nigerian.”
Regarding xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, Dabiri-Erewa said: “In the case of South Africa you need to break it down. We have xenophobic attacks which just happened recently and affected more of Malawians. I’m sure you heard the President of South Africa when he came here; it was an embarrassment to South Africa; it is not something they are happy about, and he said everything will be done to curb it. A lot of awareness must be put in place.
“The second case, is Nigerians killing Nigerians. We are having Nigerians taking drugs and (partaking in) cult wars to South Africa. The last killing of a Nigerian was by a fellow Nigerian. We have the names of the various cult groups and there are drugs related. So, you cannot take that to another man’s country and expect that they will not be happy with you. Nigerians killing Nigerians in South Africa, that is another disgraceful act. Nigerian community in South Africa must get involved; they know these organisations, they live among them.
“In the case of South Africa, four policemen have been charged for their involvement in killings of Nigerians with the intervention of Mr. President.”