Thursday, 18 August 2016

Nigerian Pilgrims Face Execution In Saudi Arabia Over Drug Trafficking 

Three Nigerian pilgrims for this year’s Hajj exercise at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia risk execution over their alleged involvement in drug trafficking. The pilgrims from Kwara State, whose identities were being protected, were arrested for alleged possession of substance suspected to be cocaine. Drug trafficking offence carries death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Hajia Fatima Abolore- Jimoh, the Executive Secretary, Kwara Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, confirmed the arrests yesterday. She said the three pilgrims, who were among the first batch of 505 pilgrims from Kwara, were arrested in Madinnah by Saudi Arabian security operatives.

The executive secretary, who did not disclose the identities of the three suspects, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the suspects were still in the custody of Saudi Arabian authorities.

Abolore-Jimoh said the Saudi Arabian law would certainly take its course on the three suspected drug traffickers. She described the arrest as unfortunate and painful despite appeals to them to be good ambassadors of Kwara and Nigeria.

The executive secretary said that other pilgrims from the state were still in Madinnah, hale, healthy and in good spirit in spite of the unfortunate incident. The first batch of pilgrims from Kwara State left for Saudi two weeks ago. A source who is familiar with the incident, but asked not to be named, told New Telegraph that the three pilgrims belong to a drug syndicate.

According to the source, five people were involved in the drug trafficking, out of which three of them were already caught while the two others were yet to leave Nigeria when their partners had been arrested in Saudi.

His words: “Yes, they are Kwarans, but not resident in Ilorin. They came to board from Lagos. What we heard was that they were five in number. They were discovered with the drugs and the initial thinking was that they were working in pairs with their colleagues who were expected to come on the second flight.

So, there was surveillance on the two ends, from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, but since no one has been caught again, it may be that the others had taken cover. “It is not clear yet whether they are from Ilorin, but what is clear is that they are Kwarans. I think the National Hajj Commission will give more details. Beyond this, nothing else to add except maybe to reiterate that they are still with the police.”

A total of 1,978 pilgrims from Kwara State are performing the 2016 pilgrimage. Efforts to get reactions from the authorities of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) on the matter were not successful as several calls put to the mobile phones of the Head, Public Relations Department, Uba Mana, were not answered. This was as an SMS sent to one of the lines was also not replied or acknowledged.

However, when a call was put through to the Chairman of the Commission, Alhaji Abdullahi Muktar Muhammad, for his reaction, he told our correspondent that he could not speak on the phone on such official matter, noting that the line with which he received the call was his private number.

Also, Dr. Femi Akorede, Senior Special Assistant on Communication to Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed told New Telegraph that the state has not been officially briefed on the matter.

“The National Hajj Commission, under whom the pilgrims travelled and the Nigerian High Commission in Saudi Arabia, none of them has notified the state government of what happened. So, until then, we have no comment,” he told our correspondent.

Meanwhile, the Jigawa Pilgrims Welfare Board (JSPWB) yesterday said government would not intervene for anybody who is caught with kola nuts in Saudi Arabia.

The Head of Operations of the Board, Alhaji Ahmed Labbo, who gave the warning, added that Saudi had warned intending pilgrims against exportation of kola nuts to the Holy Land.

According to him, “Saudi Government has banned pilgrims from taking kola nuts to the holy cities of Medina and Mecca during the pilgrimage.” He said Saudi Arabia had warned that anybody who did not comply will be prosecuted according to the law of the land.

“I am, therefore, advising our pilgrims to desist because the state government will not intervene for anybody who is caught in the act. “It is very necessary for us to note this because the Saudi Government had issued serious warning that it will not allow anybody to take kola nuts to their country,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Nasarawa State Pilgrims Welfare Board said it stopped nine pregnant women from performing this year’s Hajj to Saudi Arabia. The leader of the board’s medical team, Dr. Usman Saleh, said: “After thorough medical examination, we discovered that nine women, who, though, have fully paid their Hajj fare, are pregnant.

“We had to drop them from the list since they cannot perform this year’s pilgrimage as it is against Saudi Arabia’s law.” He said screening of the pregnant women was also in consonance with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’s directives.

Also, the board’s Public Relations Officer, Abdulrrazak Muahmmad, said it was already conducting investigation over allegation of fraud against some staff over this year’s Hajj. Muhammed said about 20 intending pilgrims from different local government areas of the state had accused some staff of the board of corruption.

“They alleged that they paid the prescribed Hajj fares to some staff of the board, but wondered why they could not find their names on the list released by the board,” he said. Muhammad said any one found culpable would be sanctioned.