It was an execution that sparked outrage and drew mixed emotions back in her homeland of Nigeria. 

Reacting to the execution, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, expressed concern that some of the trials of Nigerians in Saudi Arabia have not been transparent and fair.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, SSA to the President on Foreign and Diaspora Affairs says Afolabi was unfairly executed (Punch)

"We keep appealing to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure their trial is fair," the presidential aide said.

What was the reaction from Saudi Arabia like?

On Friday, April 5, 2019 the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Nigeria said the Kingdom stands by its decision to execute Afolabi.

The embassy said all legal and judicial procedures were followed before the death sentence was meted out on Afolabi.

Afolabi was a widowed mother as well.

"The death sentence is only carried out in the Kingdom after all proofs and legal evidence have been exhausted regarding the accused, and the process goes through various legal stages until the allegations against the detained persons have been proven beyond reasonable doubt," the statement read.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Salman Abdulaziz. His country favours capital punishment for certain crimes (AFP)

However, new information suggests that Afolabi may just have been innocent after all and she may just have been executed for a crime she knew next to nothing about.

But, was she really innocent? 

What is this new information that appears to exonerate Afolabi?

As it turns out, the Nigerian Consul-General in Saudi Arabia wrote two memos addressed to Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, stating that some of the Nigerians on death row in the Islamic nation are innocent of the crimes for which they have been tried and convicted.

The Nation reports that the Consul-General twice wrote to the Minister on December 3, 2018 and February 6, 2019, on the plight of Nigerians facing the hangman’s noose in Saudi Arabia.

Some of those found guilty of peddling drugs in Saudi Arabia, the Consul-General wrote, were victims of a drug syndicate that plants drugs in passengers' luggage at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA).

A judge ruled on capital punishment for a Nigerian man Sidrey Shalod Dike who was found guilty of drug trafficking that carried a death sentence. (Guardian)

The envoy alleged that the syndicate works in cahoots with greedy airline officials at MAKIA who check in extra bags containing prohibited drugs and tie same to legitimate luggage of innocent passengers.

He said members of the syndicate had been using particulars of innocent passengers and baggage tags to smuggle drugs into countries. 

One of the memos from the Consul-General to Minister Onyeama reportedly read as follows:

“Furthermore, it is with humility that I bring to the Honourable Minister‘s knowledge that, sadly, there are a number of Nigerians arrested for alleged drug related offence who are currently in detention at Dhahban Prison (Male Section) and Madina Prison (Male & Female Sections). Mission was unable to gain Consular access to them as the host authorities have flatly refused to grant permission for such despite several requests to that effect.

“Following the outcome of investigations carried out by both the NDLEA and the Nigeria Police (Kano State Command) the Honourable Minister may wish to note that:

“There exists a criminal syndicate collaborating with greedy officials of some airlines at MAKIA, notably Ethiopian and Egyptian Airlines, who connive to check in drug-laden bags, using passenger’s particulars without their consent or knowledge;

Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) operatives reportedly found Adesola innocent of the crime (Premium Times)

“Nigerian victims of the activities of these criminal gangs were arrested and detained in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking offences they did not commit;

“The outcome of investigations by the Nigeria Police and NDLEA absolved these victims of complicity in the crime of peddling drugs into the Kingdom. The investigations further established beyond reasonable doubts that the victims were unaware of the drug-laden baggage that were checked in bearing their particulars by unknown persons at MAKIA, Kano;

“All the suspected culprits had been apprehended and a case of criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and drug trafficking has been established against them, hence, they were arraigned at the Federal High Court, Kano;

“There are 24 Nigerians who were condemned to death between 2016 and 2018 for drug trafficking in contravention of the Kingdom’s Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Control Law issued under Decree No. M/39 dated 8/7/1428AH;

“There are 12 Nigerian women currently serving various jail terms at Dhahban prison for drug smuggling.

“Meanwhile, the following drug traffickers are serving various jail terms:

Halimat Oyebanjo Oyaya 10yrs

Sherifat Shawni 4 yrs

Limata Ahmad 10yrs

Halimat Isah 5yrs

Olubumi Adejarani Olaniyan 10yrs

Omobolanle Funke 15yrs

Nuratu Bolanle Yusuf 15yrs

Maryam Ibrahim Tanko 7yrs

Rahma Abdulkarim 20yrs

Nuratu Yusuf Abike 20yrs

Bolaji Kehinde 10yrs

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama, reportedly ignored the memos from the Consul-General or chose to do nothing about the memos, or didn’t do enough, or all of the above. 

Or maybe the bureaucracy at the Ministry is to blame? 

Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, is yet to comment on Afolabi's execution (Punch)

In any case, was Afolabi part of the 24 on death row in Saudi Arabia as referenced in the Consul-General's memos? Was she among those found innocent after investigations by the NDLEA and the Police?

What have Nigerians been saying?

In a series of tweets, Engineer Remi Opakunle said: “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 KSA authorities were only concerned with the fact that prohibited drugs were found in her luggage, and she was sentenced based on that. However, the Nigerian State had determined that the real perpetrators were the members of the 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 Nigerian Consul in KSA, was aware of this fact, and had written TWICE to the Minister of Foreign Affairs over this, first time in December 2018, second time in February 2019.

“The Consul is reported to have said there was no response to his letters. The impending execution was widely reported in the media before 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....

“Kudirat Adeshola Afolabi, your country failed you, your government failed you, Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un Rest in peace and may your soul find rest and succor with your maker.”

Another Twitter user who identifies himself as @Jackdre02 wrote that: “About that lady going for lesser hajj that was caught with drug in Saudi Arabia.. Apparently the drug was planted in her luggage by workers at the Kano international airport.

“This is how it happened. When the lady and her mom were checking in, the weight of their luggage was lesser than the max, so the workers asked if they could add some stuff for their people in Saudi, the mother declined.

“But when they got to Saudi, the lady’s luggage had increased by 6kg. What’s happening to Nigeria? As of this morning, 5 workers have been arrested at the Kano International airport and they are already in court...

“The Assistant Commander General of Narcotics also confirmed that this is not the first time this is happening at Kano Airport”.

What has been the reaction from the Nigerian government?

Foreign Affairs Minister,Onyeama, is yet to respond to a request for comments from Pulse. We’ll update this story with his comments when he eventually responds.

President Muhammadu Buhari, Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi and Abike Dabiri-Erewa attend a function (Punch)

However, President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, says if the report is true, the letter from the Consul-General wasn’t addressed to her or her office and she shouldn’t be held culpable for Afolabi’s or anyone’s death.

In a series of tweets on the subject, Dabiri-Erewa said: 

“Thank you ooo. I wonder myself. The report referred to if true, was sent to MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) since December, not to 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.

“Read the report you are referring to again. If a report was sent to a Ministry four months ago ( not to me), how does my name come in? Could bureaucracy have stalled the letter getting to the Hon Min? Please ask the right questions and get your facts right.

“All missions should be held responsible. What I suggest in this case is 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 thorough investigation”.

Recall that Dabiri-Erewa and Onyeama had a public fallout in 2017.

Pulse will continue to share developments on this story as new information emerges.