“Kudirat Afolabi carried drugs in her body”, Dabiri-Erewa said emphatically, amid insinuations from social media users that Afolabi was the victim of a cartel at the Kano Airport which specializes in planting drugs on luggage of unsuspecting travelers.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa says Kudirat did traffic drug to Saudi Arabia (The Cable) Abike Dabiri-Erewa says Kudirat did traffic drug to Saudi Arabia (The Cable)

Pulse had done a story around comments from members of the public who suggested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could have saved Afolabi if Minister Geoffrey Onyeama read two memos sent his way by Nigeria’s Consul-General in Saudi Arabia.

The memo

Some parts of the memo from the Consul-General read as follows: “There exists a criminal syndicate collaborating with greedy officials of some airlines at MAKIA (Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport), notably Ethiopian and Egyptian Airlines, who connive to check in drug-laden bags, using passenger’s particulars without their consent or knowledge;

“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;

Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, has been quiet since story of execution broke (Voice of Nigeria) Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, has been quiet since story of execution broke (Voice of Nigeria)

“The outcome of investigations by the Nigeria Police and NDLEA (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency) 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.”

Arresting members of the Kano drug cartel

However, Dabiri-Erewa told Pulse that the slain Afolabi was not one of those who carried drugs to Saudi Arabia because of the cartel at the Kano Airport. 

“We separated the matter. Some, the drugs were found on them. And she (Afolabi) was unfortunately one of them. They were 20 in number. They’ve executed some.

“And you know, when they do these things, they (Saudi Arabia authorities) decide when they execute you. Some of them haven’t even been tried. Some are facing various levels of trial. Those are the ones the NDLEA and the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) are interceding for. It’s a higher diplomatic level of engagement at this stage.

Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora (ElitesNigeria) Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora (ElitesNigeria)

“For instance, they have arrested seven people in Kano. Some of those people have confessed that they put excess baggage in some of the luggage of travelers", she said.

To suggest that Nigeria had a hand in Afolabi’s death by not saving her, is to be disingenuous, Dabiri-Erewa said.

“Was Nigeria responsible for Kudirat’s death? The answer is no. Because Kudirat was one of those sentenced to death with drugs on their bodies. Some in their private parts. Some in their anus. Some in the stomach. So, those ones, there’s no debate about whether they carried drugs or not. And the mission has been engaging with the Saudi authorities since this happened. And they said, 'look, you know our rule here says the punishment is death", the president's aide said.

Dabiri-Erewa added that the foreign affairs ministry is interceding on behalf of some drug suspects, however. 

President Muhammadu Buhari, Rotimi Amaechi and Abike Dabiri-Erewa (Presidency) President Muhammadu Buhari, Rotimi Amaechi and Abike Dabiri-Erewa (Presidency)

“There’s another category of those who upon landing in Saudi Arabia, they come to knock on their doors and say, 'this baggage is in your name, you carried drug' and the people are like ‘I carried no such baggage. Those ones are still there, going back and forth. In this category, we are saying there must be compulsory baggage identification at airports on these two airlines. These are the ones we are saying that Nigeria can still intervene. 

“Seven people have been arrested in Kano as I speak and charged by NDLEA. These ones have confessed that they put drugs in the bags of some people. These ones are awaiting trial. Others have been sentenced to jail. With this evidence, this category of persons can be saved by government”, Dabiri-Erewa said. 

The president's adviser also charged security agencies operating at the nation’s airports to do better. “Why can’t these people be arrested in Nigeria? Why is it so easy to take drugs out of the country at a time when the rest of the world is so sophisticated in identifying these things? Where is the surveillance at the airport? Why is it only these two airlines?” she asked rhetorically.

Dabiri-Erewa also had a word for the local media. “Nigerians do good things abroad, you people don’t talk about them. It’s when it’s bad news that you people talk about it”, she lectured. 

Foreign Affairs Minister, Onyeama, has been unavailable for comments since news of Afolabi’s execution first broke. 

Saudi Arabia operates a strict Islamic legal system, prescribing death for a slew of crimes once guilt has been established.