An old advice could save Nigerian travellers from landing on Saudi death row

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Travellers have often been told to avoid touching other people’s luggage and also to avoid others touching their own luggage. Many have perfunctorily obeyed this old piece of advice without knowing they have saved themselves from great danger.

 Indeed, the need to be extremely careful and mindful while travelling was brought to the fore recently after the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) burst a crime syndicate specialised in planting illegal drugs on the luggage of travellers going to Saudi Arabia.

The NDLEA got to know of the syndicate during its investigation of an incident involving Zainab Aliyu, a Nigerian lady who was arrested in Saudi Arabia for being in possession of Tramadol.

On 26th of December 2018 about 12.45 midnight, the Saudi Arabia police came to the hotel room where Zainab was staying and arrested her on allegation that one of the luggage tagged to her name and passed has prohibited drugs, tramadol. The Nigerian government was informed as part of due process.

Zainab is presently in detention in Saudi Arabi awaiting investigations and prosecutions. Her family protested to the Nigerian government and the NDLEA decided to investigate.

However, after investigations by the NDLEA, it turned out that Zainab, a student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, was innocent of the crime. She had been incriminated by members of the crime syndicate who had planted the illicit drug on her at the Mallam Aminu Kano Airport, shortly before flying to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, accompanied by her mother and her sister.

The NDLEA has now established that the drug cartel in the airport had planted the tramadol-bearing luggage on Zainab. The accused are Idris Umar Shehu (alias Umar Sanda), Sanni Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Rhoda Adetunji, Udosen Itoro Henry and Sanni Hamisu.

Meanwhile, several Nigerians have been arrested and going through trials in different countries with some facing the death sentence over allegations of drug trafficking. In Saudi Arabia alone, there are over 20 Nigerians on death row for drug trafficking. The case of Zainab indicates that some of these people may be innocent and end up dying for crimes they didn’t commit. This is why the rest of the world should prevail on countries to be more humane in the treatment of foreigners charged with drug trafficking.

Last week, a Nigerian woman was executed in Saudi Arabia over drug charges. The incident attracted widespread condemnation across the world.

The Saudi embassy in Nigeria defended the action of the Arab nation the embassy, arguing that the execution was carried out after all proofs and legal evidence had been exhausted and that the Nigerian woman was accorded every legal right before the death sentence was carried out.

“All accused persons subjected to the legal process in Saudi courts of Law are allowed access to lawyers to litigate on their behalf, and the kingdom avails itself the responsibility to provide  lawyers  for any persons that have no financial ability to do so,” it said in a statement.

“All convicted persons on whom the death penalty has been carried out in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have gone through trials characterized by legal guarantee of justice to their case because the Kingdom’s judicial system is established on objectivity and is dependent, in terms of its rules and regulations, on the Islamic Law, which has always restored rights to their owners and done justice to the victims. This is what the Kingdom has always affirmed,” the embassy said.

Nevertheless, it is better to keep to the old advice at the risk of being an unfriendly traveller. Keep your luggage to yourself and don’t keep other people’s luggage for them. This may just be what will keep you from landing on a Saudi death row.

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