Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, says the release of Zainab Aliyu by Saudi authorities is a further sign of the immense goodwill Nigeria enjoys on the Global Stage under President Muhammadu Buhari leadership.
The minister, who said this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, added that President Buhari’s integrity is widely acknowledged.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mustapha Sulaiman, had on Tuesday in Abuja announced the release of the two Nigerian detained by Saudi authority for alleged drug trafficking.
Zainab Aliyu, a student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, who travelled for Lesser Hajj in Dec. 2018 was detained by the Saudi Arabia authorities for allegedly being in possession of banned substance.
Ibrahim Abubakar, another Nigerian was also detained by Saudi authority for alleged drug-related offence.
The Minister, who received the news of the release while on official assignment in Guinea Bissau, noted that all diplomatic channels at the highest levels were explored to achieve the desired result.
He expressed delight at what he called excellent news, saying “We would like to thank the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for that decision.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been involved in very quiet diplomacy for sometime now.
“We have provided them with documentation and this has obviously led to the release, which is a very good thing.
“I think it also shows the benefits of quiet diplomacy as opposed to conducting it on twitter and other social media,” he said.
The Minister noted that in the case of Zainab, it was proven that the alleged drug courier was innocent unlike the very recent one which led to the execution of another Nigerian lady.
“So we are very happy that quiet diplomacy has proven its worth. In this case we know this is an innocent Nigerian who some criminals had planted drugs in her name,” he said..
Aliyu is a Nigerian student, who was detained in Saudi Arabia after banned substance was found in a bag labelled in her name at the Saudi Airport.
He said that she was a victim of drug cartel at the Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano.
The cartel is reported to specialise in placing hard drugs in bags owned by travellers while on their way to destination countries. Some members of the cartel had been arrested.
Onyeama, however, denied the allegations that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to do anything to avert the recent execution of another Nigerian, Kudirat Afolabi, in Saudi Arabia for drug smuggling.
“It was unfortunate that there was another case a couple of weeks ago where a Nigerian lady was executed in Saudi Arabia for drug smuggling.
“Some people were very unfair, giving impression that the Ministry was somehow responsible for the execution of this lady because she was innocent, off course that was not true, it was unfortunate the false narrative that was created.
“In that case unlike this case, that lady was found with drugs, they want to make it look like the same case as the present case.”
Onyeama said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would remain focus on the work they have to do for the benefit of all Nigerians around the world.
However, in the case of the letter informing us about the situation in Kano airport we took the necessary action and it was not at all the case that somehow there was a delay or tardiness in the reaction of the ministry.
“As I said we are very happy and delighted this innocent young lady has been released,” he said.