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 Buhari’s goodwill, int’l standing led to release of Nigerians held in Saudi… Foreign Affairs Ministry

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it leveraged on “President Muhammadu Buhari’s goodwill and international standing” in securing the release of two Nigerians, Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar, who have been held in Saudi Arabia for the past five months on allegations of drug trafficking.

In a statement on Friday, the Acting Spokesperson of the ministry, Friday Akpan, also attributed the development to the “silent diplomatic efforts” of officials of the Ministry sequel to the directive issued by President Buhari that everything possible should be done to secure their release.

Aliyu and Abubakar were released on April 30and May 1 respectively. They were arrested on December 26 2018.

Narrating the series of incidents, as well as the various diplomatic steps that culminated in the release, Akpan stated that Aliyu was arrested in a Hotel in Medina, following the discovery of a bag containing illicit drugs purportedly bearing a tag with her name. Abubakar, who was also on the same aircraft, was arrested on the same day.

On receipt of the information on the arrest of the two Nigerians, the Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah intervened and requested for a full investigation to ascertain the innocence of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar,” Akpan wrote.

“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 specializes 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.

Ibrahim Abubakar middle) after he was released on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

“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.

“As a follow-up in Nigeria, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport, accompanied by the Director, Air Transport had meetings with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the matter and submitted documents relating to the Kano Airport investigation, NDLEA report and court process.

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“These documents were forwarded to the Consulate in Jeddah to further support the innocence of the two Nigerians and also resolve the issue of luggage tag numbers.

“Following these efforts, officials in the consulate secured an appointment and met with the Director General of the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Jeddah Branch and requested him 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 Friday 26 April 2019, 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.




     

     

    “Thereafter, 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 Verbale and reports submitted by Nigeria in order to facilitate early resolution of the case of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar.

    “It should be noted that the resolution of this case required the convergence of the diplomatic process and the judicial procedure, leveraging on President Muhammadu Buhari’s goodwill and international standing.”

    Akpan, further stated that “the intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari directing that all efforts be exerted to secure the release of the two Nigerians facilitated the expedited final favourable resolution of the matter”.

    He also said that efforts are on to process the travel documents for the two individuals so they could return home.

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