Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that a recent report in The Nation Newspaper which blamed the ministry for negligence in the execution of Mrs Kudirat Adesola Afolabi, is tendentious, mischievous and libellous.
Media aide to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Sarah Sanda, stated this in a statement made available to Saturday Sun in Abuja.
Sanda said the report which indicated that the ministry and the minister were responsible for the execution of Afolabi by not reacting immediately to letters addressed to the Minister by the former Consul General of Nigeria to Saudi Arabia, informing the minister of the imminent execution of Afolabi, is preposterous and a complete falsehood.
“The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to a tendentious, mischievous and libellous article in the Nation Newspaper alleging that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Minister were somehow responsible for the death of a Nigerian lady, Ms Afolabi, executed in Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking, by not reacting immediately to letters addressed to the Minister by the former Consul General, informing of the imminent execution of the lady in question. This is preposterous and a complete falsehood. Clearly those behind the article who have deliberately distorted the facts have an agenda.
“The Newspaper quoted extensively from a letter written by the said Consul General and nowhere does it state that the lady in question, Ms Afolabi was about to be executed. The letter rather stated that “peddling of drugs into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…..is punishable with death penalty” It goes on that ” Unfortunately, between 2016-2017 the underlisted Nigerians were arrested……for smuggling narcotic drugs concealed in their rectums. They have since been sentenced to death and the sentences has already been carried out on some of them, they are:” He then listed 24 Nigerians on death row or executed, including Ms Afolabi.
“The truth of the matter is that his one letter was received on February 19, 2019, raising the alarm over the criminal acts at certain Nigerian airports where officials smuggle drugs to Saudi Arabia by checking in bags using the details of unsuspecting passengers. Immediate action was taken by the Minister by reaching out to the relevant Nigerian authorities,” Sanda said.
Sanda added that the case of Nigerians on death row in Saudi Arabia had been a challenge for many, many years.
She further said over the last three years, the Minister and the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia have relentlessly engaged the Saudi Government orally and in writing on the need to commute the death sentences of Nigerians on death row.
“Whipping up primordial sentiments by casting irresponsible aspersions does an injustice to the memory of the deceased and to her family and friends,” Sarah added.