Contrary to the popular impression that the Foreign Affairs ministry facilitated Zainab Aliyu’s and Ibrahim Abubakar’s release, it actually failed to move when told of the duo’s ordeal.
The personal interventions of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa got freedom for Zainab and Abubakar, who were arrested for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia. The offence carries a death sentence.
The Consul-General of Nigeria in Jeddah has taken custody of Zainab and supporting her to perform the lesser hajj before returning home.
The student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, who embarked on the lesser hajj in Dec. 2018, was said to be with the family of the Consul-General yesterday.
According to a source, the ministry was not “forthcoming” on Zainab and other Nigerians arrested for drugs until Hon. Dabiri-Erewa drew the attention of the President to it about three weeks ago.
The source told The Nation that, “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 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 an April 18th, 2019 memo to the AGF by Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, signed by its Legal Adviser, Mr A. Bello, more insights were provided on Zainab’s travails.
The memo said: “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 an 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 regarding 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. An 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.”
As at press time, Zainab was with the family of the Consul-General, who insisted that she must perform the lesser hajj before returning home.
“The family and fellow students are eager to receive Zainab but we learnt the Consul-General took Zainab to his family and asked her to perform lesser Hajj before returning to Nigeria.
“No one can say when she will leave Saudi Arabia.”