Presidency orders return of student detained in Saudi Arabia

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The Presidency has directed the Attorney General’s office to ensure the safe return of Zainab Aliyu, a student who was wrongly arrested for drugs trafficking in Saudi Arabia.

President Muhammadu Buhari made the call to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami today.

Aliyu, a student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, was arrested by Saudi authorities on December 26, 2018 for allegedly travelling with a luggage containing unlawful substance believed to be tramadol.

Zainab had travelled through the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) for Lesser Hajj with her mother, Maryam, and sister, Hajara.

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A petition filed by Aliyu’s family later led the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to uncover a cartel at MAKIA which specialised in planting illicit drugs in travellers’ luggage.

The arrest of seven members of the cartel led to the discovery that the tramadol-bearing luggage was planted on Aliyu without her knowledge.

“Based on the investigation carried out, it has been revealed that the said Zainab Habibu Aliyu is not the owner of the second luggage tagged in her name,” an NDLEA report read.

With Nigerians taking to social media to demand Aliyu’s release, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, disclosed on Monday, April 29, 2019 that the government is already working on her release, alongside that of two other people with a similar situation.

“@MBuhari has directed AGF to take necessary action. We are making good progress. She will be back, along with 2 others in same situation,” she responded to a Twitter user.

“Each case on its own merit. Zainub (sic) committed no crime. She must not be punished for an offense she didn’t commit. We will ensure justice as directed by @MBuhari,” she added.

The presidential aide disclosed that even though Aliyu is in detention, she has not been put on trial yet since December.

Saudi operates a very strict form of Islamic law and regularly dishes out death sentences for crimes such as homicide, rape, and armed robbery, facing backlash from many human rights organisations.

A Nigerian woman, Kudirat Afolabi, was executed in Mecca on Monday, April 1 for drugs trafficking. Three days later on April 4, another Nigerian, Wahid Somade, was arrested at Jeddah airport with about 1,138g of cocaine.

According to Dabiri-Erewa, eight Nigerians have been killed in the past few years after drug trafficking convictions in Saudi Arabia and no fewer than 20 Nigerians are currently on death row in the ultra-conservative state.

Yetunde Adegoke (Pulse)

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