The federal government has expressed concern over the number of Nigerians awaiting execution in Saudi Arabia and those already executed over drug related offence and appealed to the Kingdom for leniency.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who briefed State House correspondents yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, appealed for leniency on Nigerians still on death row in the country.
A Nigerian woman alongside two Pakistani men and a Yemeni man were executed on Monday for drug trafficking, bringing to 53 the number of people put to death in 2019 in the country.
Dabiri-Erewa said so far, eight Nigerians have been executed while 20 are on death row in Saudi Arabia.
She described the news of recent execution of a Nigerian woman in that country for drug-related offences as pathetic, tragic and sad.
“We know that drug issues in Saudi Arabia attract death penalty; that will be the eighth Nigerian to be executed for drug in Saudi in the last few years and we have about 20 on death row for drug in that country and about 12 that have been sentenced to various jail terms.
“The issue with drug in Saudi is this – there are cases of syndicates who work with airlines who actually put these drugs in the bags of unsuspecting pilgrims.
“But we have had cases where truly they did commit the offence; so, we are appealing to the Saudi authorities to make the trial fair, open and ensure that justice is done; even if you are going to die, you die for an offence you have committed.
“I appeal to Nigerians, especially those going to Saudi with stuff; obey the laws of the land; even kola nut is treated as drug; so we continue to appeal to the Saudi authorities to treat some of the cases with some form of leniency,’’ she said.
The special assistant said that while Nigerians are expected to be law-abiding, the Saudi authorities should ensure that justice truly is done before somebody is sentenced to death.
According to her, the federal government will ensure proper intervention on behalf of Nigerians to ensure that justice must be done.
She advised Nigerians going to Saudi Arabia on Ethiopian or Egyptian airlines to identify their luggage as there have many cases when passengers were accosted on the claim that a banned substance was found on their luggage.
According to her, it is now mandatory to do baggage identification before boarding the aircraft.
She said the case of Saudi is particularly worrisome because some of the suspects really did not commit the crime.
“One Nigerian was freed not too long ago with the intervention of our mission in Jeddah; it turned out that he actually did not carry the drug and he was freed.
“One again has a court case and the embassy is intervening on his behalf and hopefully he too will be freed.
“The embassy is monitoring the trial; however, Saudi is a bit of a difficult place; they are not allowed to go to the prison and see them; they were allowed once.
“So, the embassy is continuously requesting to at least go to the prison and see Nigerians on the death row and those that have been sentenced for various offence,” she said.
She added: So, we need to engage more with Saudi authorities and ensure that we do whatever we can for these citizens of Nigeria. While we condemn drug trafficking in any ramification, let’s ensure we get justice for everyone of them.’’
Dabiri-Erewa said the second case is that of Nigerians who allegedly raided a Bureau de Change in Dubai and were apprehend after CCTV review.
She said their action is disgraceful and an embarrassment to the country; to themselves and their families.
The presidential aide listed the names of the suspects as Chimuanya Ozoh, Benjamin Ajah, Kingsley Ngoka, Tochukwu Alisi and Chile Ndunagu.
On frequent killing of Nigerians in South Africa, she attributed the problem to xenophobic attacks, drug-related crimes, and cultism, among others.
She said different levels of actions and interventions have been taken to stop the killings, adding Nigerians in South Africa should also stop killing one another.
Dabiri-Erewa appealed to Nigerians to continue to be good ambassadors of the country wherever they found themselves.