It has come to light that no fewer than 20 Nigerians are on death row in Saudi Arabia over drug-related offences just as a Nigerian woman was executed on Monday.
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said 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 alone.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who revealed the information, lamented that the situation was sad and pathetic.
The presidential aide said the woman executed on Monday brought to eighth the number of Nigerians executed in Saudi Arabia for drug related offences in the last three years.
She said about 12 had been sentenced to jail for various terms in that same country where many go on pilgrimage annually.
According to Dabiri-Erewa, it had been established that there were cases of airlines conniving with drug syndicates to put those drugs in the bags of unsuspecting pilgrims.
“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 died 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 kola nut is treated as a drug.
“So, we will continue to appeal to the Saudi authorities to treat some of the 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 because somebody is sentenced to death.”
The presidential aide also described as disgraceful the arrest of five Nigerians who allegedly robbed a bureau de change in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates of Dh2.3 million (N196,016,400.00).
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 described the men as a disgrace and an embarrassment to the country, themselves, and their families.
She listed their names as Chimuanya Emmanuel Ozo, Benjamin Nwachukwu Ajah, Kingsley Ikenna Nwonka, Toochukwu Leonard Arise, and Chile Micah Ndumodu.
“These five 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 whole bunch. Nigerians are hardworking, intelligent, so these few should not spoil the whole 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 and 2017. So, it is important you identify your bags, take responsibility of 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 protest to the Saudi Arabian authorities, the presidential aide said: “We have been doing that. The Nigerian consulate in Saudi Arabia has been talking to the Saudi Arabian authorities, but I think we need to take it to a higher level now.
“I mean, with 20 on death row, this is the eighth to be killed, we need to engage with the Saudi Arabian authorities more than we have done in the past.
“With 20 Nigerians on death row, we may be 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 was doing to address the issue of the connivance of some airlines with drug syndicates planting drugs in the bags of unsuspecting pilgrims, Dabiri-Erewa said: “In particular, and this is a fact, Ethiopian Airlines and Egyptian Airlines – there are always cases of when you get there you see something in your bag.
“So, it is now mandatory for these airlines and for all those travelling to ensure that you identify your bags before you board. 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 you 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 has a court case and the embassy is fully involved and hopefully he too will be freed.”
Speaking on whether the embassy was monitoring the trials, the presidential aide said: “Yes. 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 offences.
“While we condemn drug trafficking in all ramifications, let’s ensure we get justice for every Nigerian.”
On 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 is 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 drug and 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 they are drug related.
“So, you cannot take that to another man’s country and expect that they will 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. Recall the one that happened in Anambra was a fall out of that.
“In the case of South Africa, four policemen have been charged for their involvement in the killing of Nigerians, with the intervention of Mr. President.”