ABIKE Dabiri, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Relations and the Diaspora, has denied responsibility for the death of Kudirat Adesola Afolabi, a Nigerian woman who was executed in Saudi Arabia for alleged drug trafficking.
Dabiri’s denial follows a post on Twitter from an account with the username ‘Penfold’, accusing the Presidential aide, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, of not doing enough to prevent Afolabi’s execution after it had been established that she was innocent.
Penfold tweeted: “The execution of Kudirat Adesola Afolabi is solely on The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama and The SSA to PMB on Foreign Affairs & Diaspora, Ms Abike Dabiri. That was the execution of an innocent person in a foreign land that need not have happened.”
The tweet thread narrated how Afolabi was arrested and sentenced to death because illegal drugs were discovered in her luggage, but said that investigations had revealed that she was innocent and that the real perpetrators were members of a drug syndicate at the Kano Airport.
“In fact, the real criminals had been arrested and prosecuted in Nigeria, and Kudirat’s innocence established in Nigeria,” the tweets read in part.
The Nigerian Consul in Saudi Arabia was said to have written twice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs − in December 2018 and in February 2019 − to intervene in the matter and save the innocent Afolabi from being executed, but nothing was done.
“Adeshola was executed 2 weeks ago. That was one needless death, of an innocent, that shouldn’t have happened.
“Imagine being on death row and facing death every day with the knowledge that you are innocent, the misery, the torture of facing certain death with the full knowledge that you are innocent, that is totally, totally inhumane.
“Maybe if our high govt officials spend more time on actually ministering to foreign affairs and assisting Nigerians in Diaspora instead of being quick to air opinions in the media (Social, Print and Electronic) there might be less of such deaths,” Penfold tweeted.
In her response, Abike Dabiri said the blame should be on the Foreign Affairs Ministry, not on her office or person.
“If a report was sent to a Ministry four months ago (not to me), how does my name come in,” she wondered.
“The report referred to, if true, was sent to MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) since Dec, not me. So, how is my name coming up here? If anything, I’m glad I brought this to the forefront and everything should be done to tackle these issues.
“But I expect the MFA to take drastic action against those who kept the detailed letter away from him. I am sure he will do that and deal decisively with anyone culpable.
“What I suggest in this case is a full investigation by the MFA. Who received the letter? Why was no action taken? Seriously, we are talking about human lives and this issue deserves a thorough investigation,” Dabiri further tweeted in response to several other tweets directed at her.
She also said that the Nigerian mission in Saudi had engaged the country’s authorities over the issue, “but they got a ‘no’ always” with the authorities insisting “that drug is death.
“The 20 (Nigerians) on death row − which sadly included Kudirat − had drugs found hidden in their bodies, eg, their private parts. NDLEA must do more to arrest them in Nigeria,” she wrote.
Dabiri had expressed regret and disappointment over Afolabi’s execution especially as there was a chance that she was truly innocent of the crime she accused of committing.
Speaking at the state house correspondents on Tuesday, April 2, Dabiri said Afolabi was the eighth Nigerian and the 53rd person to be executed in Saudi in 2019 alone, while admitting that there had been established cases of airline officials fraudulently planting drugs on unsuspecting travellers.
“We have had cases where truly they didn’t commit the offence. We have appealed to the Saudi Authorities to make the trials fair, open and ensure that justice is done. Even if you are going to die, you will know that you die for an offence you committed,” Dabiri was quoted as saying.
“So, while we appeal to Nigerians going to Saudi Arabia, we know it is tough, obey the laws of the land. Even Kolanut is treated as a drug.
“We have 20 of them in Saudi, this is the eighth to be executed and we are hopeful that maybe we will be able to save the others.
“We expect the trial to be fair, open and ensure that justice truly is done before somebody is sentenced to death.”
A report published by TheNation newspaper on Wednesday had accused the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of being “diplomatically slow” in responding to issues affecting Nigerians and this was what led Afolabi’s execution.