- President Buhari reportedly played a key role in the release of two Nigerians arrested in Saudi Arabia
- The duo were facing a possible death penalty after being accused of drug smuggling
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reportedly failed to act on time before the president's intervention
President Muhammadu Buhari’s close diplomatic ties with the Saudi Arabian government reportedly facilitated the release of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar.
Aliyu and Abubakar were accused of smuggling drugs into Saudi Arabia and detained before investigation revealed that they were victims.
The Nation reports that sources revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not forthcoming in handling the case until Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa who is the special assistant to the president on foreign affairs and diaspora called the attention of the president to it.
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The source said: “Before Abike Dabiri-Erewa drew the attention of the President to the cases of Nigerians in Saudi Arabia, the Nigerian Consul-General in Jeddah, Amb. M. S. Yunusa, wrote two memos to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Geoffrey Onyeama, on December 3, 2018 and February 6, 2019 but no action was taken.
“No attempt was made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to link up with the father of Zainab and the relatives of those with cases. The Nigerian Consulate was just left to its fate;
“Upon meeting with the President on the problems at hand, Buhari immediately directed Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa to meet the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
“The President later got security reports from relevant agencies which made him to open talks with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His personal diplomatic ties with the Saudi Government facilitated justice for Zainab and Ibrahim.
“This background is necessary to underscore the importance of putting things in order in our Foreign Affairs Ministry to avert a repeat of this type of challenge.”
In the memo to the attorney-general of the federation, it was revealed that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency following a thorough investigation arrested six of the seven drug syndicate responsible for planting them in passengers’ luggage.
The memo read: “Based on the complaint of Zainab’s father on 26th December, 2018, the Commander of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport commenced investigation into the case of unlawful exportation of Tramadol to Saudi Arabia by a syndicate of workers at the airport.
“After a thorough investigation carried out by the NDLEA, all the culprits were arrested and six of the seven suspects have been charged to the Federal High Court sitting in Kano with conspiracy, unlawful exportation and transportation of prohibited drugs.
“The NDLEA, however, found that Zainab Habibu Aliyu is not the owner of the second baggage tagged in her name in which the prohibited drugs(Tramadol) were found.
“The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation may wish to note that the findings by the NDLEA as regard the innocence of Zainab Habibu Aliyu as well as the arrest and prosecution of the culprits before the Federal High Court, Kano has been communicated to Saudi Arabia Authorities through Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“We wish also to draw the attention of the HAGF to Paragraph 6b of Annexure ‘C’ that one Ibrahim Abubakar is also being detained in Saudi Arabia on circumstances similar to that of Zainab Habibu Aliyu. Investigation into his case is currently ongoing.
“In view of the foregoing, it is our prayer that the HAGF uses his exalted office to prevent Zainab Habibu Aliyu from being prosecuted wrongly.”
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Meanwhile, foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, says the release of Zainab Aliyu by Saudi authorities is a further sign of the immense goodwill Nigeria enjoys on the Global Stage under President Muhammadu Buhari leadership.
The minister, who said this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, added that President Buhari’s integrity is widely acknowledged.
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