Of Nigerians, Drugs And Death Penalty

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For the past one month, some Nigerians living in Saudi Arabia have been in the news for the wrong reasons.
On April 1, a Nigerian woman, Kudirat Adesola Afolabi was executed by the Saudi authorities for drug trafficking, even as another set of 23 Nigerians are awaiting the hangman in the Kingdom for the same offence. In the midst of this, another Nigerian, Wahid Sobade is facing the prospect of death after reportedly being nabbed with 1,138g of cocaine powder in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia port city on the Red Sea.
Afolabi’s execution brings the total number of Nigerians killed in Saudi Arabia for drug smuggling in the past few years to nine. This is aside 11 Nigerians who are currently serving various jail terms for drug trafficking in the Kingdom.
There is a litany of several other convictions around the world involving Nigerians on drug trafficking. In India for instance, Nigerians have reportedly topped the list of foreigners arrested for drug trafficking since 2012. Out of the foreign nationals arrested for drug smuggling between 2012 and 2017, 13 were Nigerians with one from Ghana.
A 2012 report by the International Narcotics Central Board (INCB) also rated Nigeria highest among West African countries that transact in illicit drugs. The report indicates that close to 50 percent of Africa’s drug couriers arrested in Europe in 2011 were Nigerians.
In November 2017, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) alerted Nigeria that about 600 Nigerians were on the death row across Asian countries, with Malaysia. Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore topping the drug routes.
Indonesia is particularly an exceptional destination as many Nigerians have been caught, tried and executed there in the recent past. In one particular sensational death sentence that captured the attention of the world in April 2015, four Nigerians convicted of drug trafficking were executed along with other nationals by Indonesian authorities
These convictions across the world involving Nigerians are mind-boggling.
It is sad and regrettable that in spite of public knowledge that drug trafficking carries the mandatory maximum sentence in countries like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Malaysia, some Nigerians still engage in the criminal act.
These actions by few Nigerians bring monumental shame and disrepute to innocent Nigerians living in the diaspora and also inflict grave damage on Nigeria’s already sullied image in the world.
It is on this note that we call on Nigerians in the diaspora to stay out of trouble by living within the laws of the country they reside or do business. Nigerians should know that drug trafficking is an immoral act and criminal offence that carries various sentences across the world, and therefore should be avoided.
More worrisome is the lack of foresight often displayed by Nigerian authorities in dealing with diplomatic matters. Nigeria had often greeted several convictions involving Nigerians abroad with just mere shrug, showing no reasonable interest in the plight of its citizens who had conflict with the law in foreign land.
For instance, there are media reports that Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been alerted on the impending fate of 23 Nigerians on the death row in Saudi Arabia, but did nothing about the privileged information. The late response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the alert by Nigeria’s Consul-General, Ambassador M.S. Yunusa is believed to have contributed to the execution of Kudirat Afolabi on April 1.
Again, the media reports that those awaiting death sentence in Saudi Arabia on charges of drug trafficking are innocent and that they are victims of complicity between members of a syndicate working in cahoot with greedy airline officials, who use the particulars of innocent passengers and baggage tags to smuggle drugs into Saudi Arabia, have raised questions on the competence and efficiency of our security agencies, especially the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in the nation’s airports.
Could it be that the NDLEA and its sister agencies have been compromised by drug barons or is it that drug detection facilities at the nation’s airports are obsolete? Why then is it so easy to smuggle drugs out of Nigeria?
While we appeal to the Federal Government to be more proactive in getting Nigerians out of trouble in foreign land, we also charge the government to investigate the alleged conspiracy that led to the conviction of the 23 Nigerians in Saudi Arabia, with a view to bringing the culprits to book.