The Federal Government yesterday said some of the eight Nigerians recently executed by the Saudi Arabian Government over drug-related offences were innocent.
Chairman, Presidential Committee on Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA), Brig.- General Buba Marwa, said investigations showed that those innocent Nigerians had their bags wrongly tagged by airlines in connivance with baggage handlers.
Speaking at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, during an interaction with the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agencies and other stakeholders, he fingered airlines and baggage handlers in aiding and abetting drug trafficking at airports.
He said: “We have heard about the huge arrests in Saudi Arabia including the recent execution and preliminary investigations had shown that innocent passengers, in some cases, have had luggage that do not belong to them tagged by airlines in their names.
“And on arrival at their destinations, of course they didn’t know that anything was tagged against their names only for the security agencies to track them with a luggage that has drug which does not belong to them.
“We have had that situation. And as we all know it is better for 99 per cent people to get out than for one innocent person to be killed”.
He said there was an instance when a passenger who travelled from Kano Airport was arrested in Saudi Arabia for drug, but Close Circuit Television (CCTV) footage at the airport indicated his bag was wrongly tagged by an airline staff.
Marwa said any airline found to be involved in this act would be penalized.
According to him, resolving the menace of drug abuse requires political will and President Muhammadu Buhari has the will to solve the problem, adding that every Nigeria is directly or indirectly involved.
“Drug abuse crisis is a huge challenge but it is surmountable. We must be clear about it. We must solved the problem”, he posited.
NDLEA Commander, Lagos Airport Command, Ahmadu Garuba, said 93 people were arrested in 2018 alone with 5,3777.125 kilogrammes of drugs seized, adding that from January 2019 till date, 26 people have been arrested.
He highlighted some challenges aiding drug trafficking at the airport to include absence of modern baggage scanners, poor salaries being paid to auxiliary staff especially cleaners which expose them to compromise, saying presently 15 people who worked at the airport were being prosecuted for drug trafficking.
According to him, investigations showed that most of them were earning very little salaries. The Commander also stressed the need to adopt the Advanced Passenger Information (API) system where the information on passengers would be made available to the NDLEA before arrival for necessary profiling.
“There are only two countries in Africa with API which are South Africa and Ghana and this aids officers/passengers’ interface. What we have in Nigeria is nowhere to that but we have started implementing something near that.”