By Danladi Al-Hassan
The Presidency on Tuesday described the execution of a Nigerian woman over drug-related offence on Monday in Saudi Arabia was pathetic and tragic.
The Nigerian woman was executed alongside four other persons by the Saudi authorities on Monday. The others were two Pakistan and one Yemen nationals.
Saudi Arabia has executed 53 people this year alone over such offences.
Mrs. Abike Dabiri- Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora, who spoke with State House correspondents in Abuja, lamented that this recent execution became the 8th involving Nigerians in similar circumstances.
She disclosed that 20 others were still on the death row, besides 12 more already sentenced to jail.
However, she noted that the government was saddened by the fact that in some instances, the unfortunate Nigerians were the victims of drug cartels working with some airline workers. She stated that in such cases, drugs were stealthily put in the bags of unsuspecting pilgrims by the cartels only for them to be picked up on arrival in Saudi Arabia.
She said it was the desire of Nigeria that Saudi Arabia should show mercy in such cases, since the drugs were not transported with the knowledge of the victims.
“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 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 8th to be executed and we are hopeful that maybe we will be able to save the others. 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,” she said.
She spoke on efforts by the Nigerian government to educate citizens visiting Saudi Arabia to avoid getting into trouble by ensuring that they keep watch over their bags.
“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,” she said.
However, Dabiri-Erewa maintained that drug trafficking was a crime, which must be punished whenever it was truly established.