The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, has launched a probe into the arrest of three Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia for alleged possession of substances suspected to be cocaine.
The Chairman and Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (retd), who expressed disappointment at the incident, said a panel, headed by Director of Operations and General Investigation Mr. Olugbenga Mabo would probe the incident.
The pilgrims, who are from Kwara State but whose identities were not disclosed, were arrested in Medina by Saudi security authorities.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia operates a strict Sharia law, which prescribes capital punishment for drug related offences.
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Although drug related offences are not mandatorily punishable by death according to the authorities’ interpretation of Sharia law, executions for the offences in the Kingdom rose from just 4 per cent in 2010 and 2011 to 28 per cent in 2012 and 32 per cent in 2013. The figure rose to 47 per cent by 2014 and 2015.
Reacting to the arrest of the pilgrims, which he described as utterly reprehensible, the NDLEA boss said “This is unfortunate and we are working hard to get to the root of it”.
According to Abdallah, the agency is handling the case with every sense of seriousness and urgency because the action of the pilgrims has negatively affected Nigeria’s image abroad, especially in Saudi Arabia.
“We have also taken measures to intensify the screening of pilgrims yet to depart to Saudi Arabia to prevent a recurrence of the sad incident”, he added.
The NDLEA chief also urged pilgrims to uphold the principle of probity, patriotism and eschew any act capable of bringing the image of the country to disrepute.