Twenty-three Nigerians are on the death row in Saudi Arabia. They may be beheaded any time from now, The Nation has learnt.
Besides, 11 are serving various jail terms for drug trafficking in the kingdom.
Another suspected trafficker is awaiting trial.
The 23 death row inmates could not be named for “diplomatic and sensitivity” reasons.
Unless President Muhammadu Buhari intervenes, the death toll could be higher, a source said.
The “late” response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a memo from the Nigerian Consul-General, Amb. M. S. Yunusa, is believed to have contributed to the execution of a Nigerian woman, Kudirat Adeshola Afolabi about two weeks ago.
It was learnt that the ministry had been “diplomatically slow” in responding to issues connected with Nigerians.
No ministry official was willing to comment on the allegation yesterday.
The Consul-General wrote twice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Geoffrey Onyeama, on December 3, 2018 and February 6, 2019, raising the alarm over the plight of Nigerians in Saudi Arabia.
He said the nation should endeavour to use its diplomatic bond with Saudi Arabia to seek pardon for all our compatriots condemned to death and for those serving various jail terms.
But more worrisome to the Consul-General is what he believe is the security lapse at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano, which is being used for massive drug trafficking.
The envoy admitted that there is a drug syndicate at the airport.
He alleged that the syndicate in cahoots with greedy airline officials at MAKIA were checking in extra bags containing prohibited drugs.
He said members of the syndicate had been using particulars of innocent passengers and baggage tags to smuggle drugs leading to the arrest of Nigerians who had no links with drug trafficking.
One of the memos said: “Furthermore, it is with humility that I bring to the Honourable Minister‘s knowledge that, sadly, there are a number of Nigerians arrested for alleged drug related offence who are currently in detention at Dhahban Prison (Male Section) and Madina Prison (Male & Female Sections). Mission was unable to gain Consular access to them as the host authorities have flatly refused to grant permission for such despite several requests to that effect.
“Following the outcome of investigations carried out by both the NDLEA and the Nigeria Police (Kano State Command) the Honourable Minister may wish to note that:
“There exists a criminal syndicate collaborating with greedy officials of some airlines at MAKIA, notably Ethiopian and Egyptian Airlines, who connive to check in drug-laden bags, using passenger’s particulars without their consent or knowledge;
“Nigerian victims of the activities of these criminal gangs were arrested and detained in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking offences they did not commit;
“The outcome of investigations by the Nigeria Police and NDLEA absolved these victims of complicity in the crime of peddling drugs into the Kingdom. The investigations further established beyond reasonable doubts that the victims were unaware of the drug-laden baggage that were checked in bearing their particulars by unknown persons at MAKIA, Kano;
“All the suspected culprits had been apprehended and a case of criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and drug trafficking has been established against them, hence, they were arraigned at the Federal High Court, Kano;
“There are 24 Nigerians who were condemned to death between 2016 2018 for drug trafficking in contravention of the Kingdom’s Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Control Law issued under Decree No. M/39 dated 8/7/1428AH;
“There are 12 Nigerian women currently serving various jail terms at Dhahban prison for drug smuggling.
“Meanwhile, the following drug traffickers are serving various jail terms:
a) Halimat Oyebanjo Oyaya – 10 years b) Sherifat Shawni – 4 years c) Limata Ahmad – 10 years d) Halimat Isah – 5 years e) Olubumi Adejarani Olaniyan – 10 years f) Omobolanle Funke – 15 years g) Nuratu Bolanle Yusuf – 15 years h) Maryam Ibrahim Tanko – 7 years i) Rahma Abdulkarim 20 years j) Nuratu Yusuf Abike – 20 years k) Bolaji Kehinde – 10 years I) Yasirat Abolanle Salau – awaiting trail
“There are a number of Nigerians accused of drug trafficking incarcerated at various Saudi Prisons but the Mission was unable to undertake consular visits due to refusal by the Saudi authorities to grant permission for such visits despite repeated requests and
“Drug smuggling into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by Nigerians has reached an alarming proportion and all hands must be on deck to check this menace.”
The Consul-General gave insight into how a syndicate had infiltrated the security in Kano to perpetrate drug trafficking.
His memo drew the minister’s attention to “a frightening development that portends grave danger to passenger travelling to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano.”
“It has emerged that some criminally minded individuals working in cohort with greedy airline officials at MAKIA, have perfected the art of checking in extra bags containing prohibited drugs, particularly Tramadol, using the particulars of innocent passengers and baggage tags presumably assigned to such passengers travelling to the Kingdom. Regrettably, this contemptible act exposes innocent Nigerians to high risk of losing their lives,” the memo said, adding:
“As you are aware Your Excellency, drug trafficking attracts capital punishment in Saudi Arabia. It is, therefore, imperative that urgent steps are taken to checkmate the activities of these miscreants. “Certainly, failure to do so would be tantamount to allowing innocent Nigerians to face death sentences for crimes they did not commit.
“At this juncture, it would be appropriate to mention some of these cases that were handled by the Consulate-General. For Instance, Messrs. Bashir Usman Sani, Amdani Salisu Maikasuwa and Ibrahim Abubakar Ibrahim, were arrested and later imprisoned in 2017 while Zainab Habibu Allyn and Ibrahim Abubakar were arrested on 25th December, 2018 and have remained in prison custody following date, for alleged drug trafficking.
“However, in the case of Ms. Zainab Habibu Aliyu and pursuant to a complaint lodged by her father, Alhaji Bashir Usman Sani (in Nigeria), the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Nigeria Police (Kano State Command) have thoroughly investigated the case and six suspects were arrested and charged to Federal High Court, Kano.
“The accused persons are, Messrs Idris Umar Shehu (Alias Umar Sande), Sani Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Udosen Itoro Henry, Sani Hamisu and Ms Rhoda Adetunji. They were charged with conspiring to export Tramadol to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and for illegally checking in additional baggage containing the banned substance and linking same to Ms. Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar, passengers on board Ethopian Airline flight ET 941/ET 402 to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 24th December, 2018.
“ In the same token, seven other suspects, namely, Yusuf Isa Ahmad, Shaba Umaru, Diwawu Mustapha, Shafiu Musa, Murtala Muhammad, Musa Haruna and Hajiya Gawure Abba Aji were also arrested and charged to court with criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, and drug trafficking. They were also accused of tagging additional drug-laden baggages and falsely linking same to Messrs Bashir Usman Sani and Amdani Salisu Maikasuwa. Again, Messrs Rabiu Mahmud Sani and Anthony/Johnson as well as Mrs. Celestine Emanuel Yayok were also charged with fraudulency tagging and exporting a bag containing psychotropic drugs suspected to be Tramadol using the passport details of Ibrahim Ibrahim Abubakar Ibrahim.
“Your Excellency, permit me to state that investigation carried out by both the NDLEA and the Nigeria Police have established beyond reasonable doubts the existence of some criminal syndicates masquerading as touts rendering assistance to unsuspecting passengers at MAKIA, Kano.
“These miscreants are now endangering innocent lives and this state of affairs should not be allowed to remain unchecked.
“ Furthermore, it is noteworthy to state that consequent upon the Mission’s relentless efforts through several notes to host Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Makkah Region Branch) and ceaseless interactive sessions with the officials of Saudi Department for combating Drugs, Food and Drug Administration as well as the offices of the Public Prosecutor, Makkah and Madinah Regions, Messers Bashir Usman Sani, Amadani Salisu Maikasuwa and Ibrahim Ibrahim Abubakar Ibrahim have all been released on 25th October, 2018 and 25/1/2019 respectively.
“Again, it is pertinent to reiterate that peddling of drugs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contravenes the Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Control Law, issuer under Royal Decree No. M/39 dated 8/7/1428AH and is punishable with death penalty. Unfortunately, between 2016- 2017 the under noted Nigerians were arrested at King Abdul Aziz International Airport. Jeddah and Prince Muhammad bin Abdul-Aziz international Airport, Madinah for smuggling narcotic drugs concealed in their rectums.
The Consul-General made five recommendations to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, including the need to seek clemency for innocent Nigerians held for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia.
The recommendations are:
Enhancement of security surveillance by installing functional CCTV cameras at the checking-in counters and other sensitive areas of airports in Nigeria;
Henceforth, Nigeria Airport Management Authority (NAMA) in collaboration with other relevant security agencies should institute a compulsory baggage identification procedure before boarding for all checked-in luggage;
Every passenger should check in his/her luggage personally and not through third parties;
The trial of those found culpable for checking-in extra-baggage’s using the identities of victims should be pursued expeditiously and the attested copies of the judgments be made available to the Mission for onward transmission to our host authorities as proof that the culprits were punished in accordance with our laws; and
The Federal Government should henceforth, appeal for clemency and pardon for all our compatriots condemned to death and for those serving various jail terms.