Reprieve came the way of Zainab Aliyu, a Nigerian student who had been in detention in Saudi Arabia on suspicion of drug trafficking since 2018.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, before her release on Tuesday, directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to intervene in the matter by exploring how she could be freed.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, said on Monday that “President Muhammadu Buhari gave the directive immediately the matter was brought to his attention about two weeks ago”, adding that “my office has been working with the AGF as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in that regard.”
The presidential aide had assured that progress was being made in Zainab’s case along with two others held in similar circumstances in Saudi Arabia.
“Zainab, although detained, had not been put on trial by the Saudi Arabian government. And with the hard evidence that those who implicated her had been arrested, a strong legal case had been made to the Saudi authorities,” Dabiri-Erewa had said.
Zainab is a student at Maitama Sule University, Kano, who travelled for Lesser Hajj in December 2018 when she was arrested and detained by the Saudi authorities.
Just when her chances of freedom were considered slim because of the strict laws of the Saudi government on drug related issues, she was let off the hook.
Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, first broke the news of her freedom on Tuesday through his twitter handle.
Ahmad’s tweet reads: “The Federal Government has secured the release of Zainab Habibu Aliyu who was arrested in Saudi Arabia for alleged drug trafficking.”
Zainab was arrested after a banned drug, tramadol, was found in her bag. She claimed it was planted in her luggage by unknown persons.
She was reported to have travelled from Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in company of her mother, Mrs. Maryam Aliyu, and sister, Hajara Aliyu, but was arrested over allegations that a bag bearing her name tag contained the unlawful substance.
Habib Aliyu, her father, had appealed to the Federal Government to intervene in her daughter’s case and save her from being executed wrongly.
Dabiri-Erewa had in a previous interactive forum with State House correspondents, alleged that there was a chain of airport officials who were in the habit of planting illegal substances in the bags of unsuspecting passengers.