Published On: Fri, Apr 26th, 2019

Drug cartel – Save Zainab Aliyu from possible death sentence in Saudi Arabia

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A dangerous system of drug trafficking is gaining momentum at international airports across the world. Drug peddlers, aware of the dire consequences of their trade whenever they are caught, especially in destinations with zero tolerance for the trade, have found an ingenious way of using innocent travelers as couriers.
In destinations like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other countries in the Middle-East, death sentence is not negotiable for anyone found guilty of indulging in the illicit trade whether knowingly or unknowingly.
Conscious of the danger inherent in trafficking drugs to these dangerous zones and allured by the juicy income they generate on a successful movement of drugs to the red zone countries, drug syndicates, especially in Nigeria, have found ways of planting illicit substances into the luggages of unsuspecting passengers traveling to those countries by their members masquerading as airport workers.
When the victims unknowingly succeed at trafficking the drugs to their destinations, the syndicates locate their hotel rooms and ask that the drug in their luggages be delivered to them. But when the bubble bursts and the unwilling courier gets nabbed, she/she is left alone to carry the can.
Most often than not, it is always difficult to prove their innocence in foreign lands where ignorance is not considered an alibi. They eventually get convicted and, most often than not, face the gulag or long hail term for offences not committed in the first place. Many unsuspecting compatriots have fallen victims of the antics of these dare Devils and have been made to pay the ultimate price.
The hints of the existence of drug syndicates among airlines operators in the country was first dropped by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora, Rt. Hon. Abike Dabiri-Etewa, when a Nigerian woman was executed for a drug related offence in Saudi Arabia bringing to 53 the number of people put to death this year in that country.
According to her, 20 more are on death row for same offence while 12 others have been sentenced to various jail terms in that country alone! But she pointed out that many of those who were eventually convicted for drug peddling were victims of this syndicates who implicate innocent citizens by loading their luggages at the airports with banned substances without their knowledge.
Her call for more diligence must have led to the recent discovery of a drug cartel specialized in planting illicit substances in travelers’ luggage in Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) in Kano by the officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
According to the story, a Nigerian identified as Zainab Aliyu, a student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, who was on a lesser Hajj to Saudi Arabia last December had her luggage stuffed with Tramadol, a substance considered as illicit in that country, by a drug cartel.
She was later arrested over allegations that a luggage, bearing her name tag, contained the unlawful substance and detained.
The NDLEA conducted its investigation upon a petition received from Zainab’s father and found out that the Tramadol bearing bag was planted on her by some members of staff of the airport. She did not know anything about the second bag bearing her name tag. Those seven members of staff involved, according to the report, have since been arrested and charged to court.
Though the NDLEA have evidences vindicating Zainab’s innocence, the Consul-General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia must be relentless in his diplomatic efforts with the Saudi authorities for the lady to escape the hangman and regain her freedom.
This particular case gave an indication that many heads which have been rolling in foreign lands for drug related offences may be innocent after all.
While the anti-drug agency must be commended for its due diligence and efficiency by getting the members of the Kano drug cartel arrested, every individual on transit must also be vigilant while checking-in their luggages so as not to fall prey to those in the business of using innocent travelers as drug couriers.
Aside this, travelers should beware of some characters scattered at the airports world over soliciting for help from them. I have a personal experience recently on my way from Dubai, UAE, when someone warmed up to me and begged me to help him deliver some bags to his ‘wife’ in Lagos since my luggage was short of the required kilograms allowed by the airliners. I bluntly refused.
Many have been led into serious trouble by these favour-seekers who will come in lamb’s cloak only to turn out to be wolves at the end. They are all over the nation’s airports across the country.
What to do? With this development, the federal government must employ all diplomatic means to rescue Zainab and other victims of circumstances like her from the jaw of death. It must engage the authorities in Saudi and convince them of her innocence.
The Minister of State (Aviation), Hadi Sirika, must improve on the security of the nation’s airports and ensure that they are rid of those charlatans who loiter around most times to defraud travelers. Anyone with no business around the airports must be arrested and prosecuted if need be. Those fraudsters masquerading as Bureau de Change operators, especially around Nnamdi Azikwe International Airports in Lagos, duping people, must be evacuated with immediate effect.
The minister must also ensure that airlines identified as harboring the syndicates, pretending to be staff, are made to face severe sanctions. This is because the consequence of their actions and activities lead to the death of innocent citizens. The culprits must never be shown mercy by the state.
The allegation that some international airliners, including Ethiopian and Egypt Airlines harbour members of this cartel must be thoroughly investigated. Commensurate sanctions should be imposed should they be found culpable. This is an obligation the minister owes the country.
The government must also enlighten the travelers on what constitute illicit substance at the international parlance. It is observable that travelers are assumed to know what the law prohibits them from taking with them while embarking on a journey like the Hajj for instance. Enough enlightenment, through mass media, is required for the pilgrims and other travelers to those ‘red-zones’ counties where ordinary kola-nut is regarded as hard drug and whoever is caught carrying them are made to face severe penalties. This mass enlightenment would help in preserving the lives of the innocent citizens from falling prey to their ignorance at all times and save the country the bad image therefrom.

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