Foreign Affairs Ministry says its silent diplomatic efforts in the past few weeks culminated in the release of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar arrested by Saudi authority for a drug-related offence.
The ministry said this in a statement by its Acting Spokesperson, Friday Akpan, on Thursday in Abuja
“Zainab Aliyu, a Nigerian student who travelled for Lesser Hajj with her mother was arrested by Saudi Security Officials on December 26, 2018, in a hotel in Madinah.
“She was accused of possessing a bag containing illicit drugs purportedly bearing a tag with her name.
“Another passenger, Ibrahim Abubakar, unrelated to Zainab who also travelled on the same aircraft, was also arrested on the same day,” it stated.
The ministry explained that Zainab Aliyu was released on April 30, while Ibrahim Abubakar was released on May 1.
It also stressed that the intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari directing that all efforts be exerted to secure their release facilitated the expedited final favourable resolution of the matter.
While explaining further its efforts on the release of the two Nigerians, the ministry stated that on receipt of the information on their arrest, the Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah intervened.
It stated that the Nigerian Mission in Saudi then requested for a full investigation to ascertain the innocence of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar.
“Investigations conducted by the Airport Authorities and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Kano discovered a drug cartel at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, that specialises in planting illicit drugs on innocent travellers without their knowledge.
“It was also discovered that the bag tagged in Zainab’s name was planted by the cartel without her knowledge.
“Following the arrest of members of the cartel, the Federal Government is currently prosecuting the suspects in the Federal High Court, Kano.
“The outcome of the investigation and subsequent trial of the suspects confirmed the innocence of the two Nigerians.
“The Consulate General of Nigeria in Jeddah, upon instruction from Headquarters, therefore sent series of Diplomatic Notes to the Saudi Foreign Ministry informing of the arrest of members of the syndicate in Kano and forwarding the report of the NDLEA investigation and court proceeding.”
It stated that investigation documents were forwarded to the Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah to further support the innocence of the two Nigerians and also resolve the issue of luggage tag numbers.
According to the ministry, following these efforts, officials in the Consulate secured an appointment and met with the Director General of the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Jeddah.
It said that the DG then requested the official in the consulate to forward the NDLEA report to all concerned Saudi agencies with a view to releasing Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar.
“All these processes followed were consistent with the usual diplomatic channel of engagement.
“To maintain the diplomatic pressure, another Note was sent by our Embassy in Riyadh conveying the same message to the Saudi Authorities.
“On April 26, a Note was also sent to both the Saudi Embassy in Abuja and its Consulate in Kano, forwarding court documents relating to the trial of members of the Kano syndicate,” it stated.
It added that the Legal Adviser of the Saudi Foreign Ministry confirmed that relevant agencies and departments in Saudi Arabia were going to meet to consider all the Notes Verbal and reports submitted by Nigeria.
This, it stated, was to facilitate early resolution of the case of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar.
The ministry added that the judicial and legal process in Nigeria also provided the critical documentation that aided the diplomatic efforts to establish the innocence of both Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar.
It stated that the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Jeddah is currently processing travel documents for the two individuals to facilitate their return to Nigeria.
The ministry commended the Saudi government, through its Embassy in Abuja and officials of Saudi Foreign Ministry, for cooperating with Nigeria in the eventual resolution of the matter.