Reactions have been passionate since the reported execution early this month of a Nigerian woman for drug related issues by the Saudi Arabian government. Also executed with her are two Pakistani men and a Yemeni man. So far, eight Nigerians have been killed in similar circumstances these past few years in that Middle Eastern country and about 20 more Nigerians are believed to be still on death row there.
Typical of what happens with Nigerians, after the immediate angst and complaining, everything goes to normal until one or more of the others awaiting execution are actually killed. Much as we do not, in any way, support trafficking in drugs, it is apposite that we register our displeasure with the seeming inability of the government to speak up for these helpless Nigerians caught in this kind of predicament outside the shores of the country. It is obvious that this woman was not the first Nigerian to suffer such a fate.
However, this newspaper notes with disapproval the apparent disregard for Nigerian lives that are wasted all over the world for the flimsiest of reasons. It is becoming commonplace for Nigerians to be killed by their host countries with passive acquiescence of the authorities there without the home government doing anything about it beyond the now familiar platitudes.
It may be convenient to blame the victims of these obnoxious acts for what came to the, or, for that matter, justify death penalty on the grounds that the victims knew the risks involved in the crime that eventually terminated their lives. The point to be made is that the Nigerian government owes its citizens the right to protect them from highhandedness anywhere it rears its ugly head including when they err. Much as we respect Saudi Arabia’s theocratic perception of law and its insistence on maximum punishment for certain offences such as the one under review, still, the Nigerian government must act in a manner that is expected of it just to ensure that the guilt is proved beyond all shadow of doubt.
This becomes even more crucial considering the fact that with this kind of ultimate penalty, any error of judgement is irreversible. Furthermore, it is our considered opinion that bilateral efforts should be applied in exploring other forms of punishment. This will entail engaging the countries concerned, in this case, Saudi Arabia on the pertinence of making haste slowly in the application of the law not minding her righteous indignation.
Also worrisome are the talks about the trial not being fair, not just in the case of the recent woman who was killed, but also for most of the convicts since the country is not known to hold open trials in cases that carry a death penalty, with some convicts even tried without a defence counsel.
The Nigerian government also needs to look into allegations that airline officials set innocent people up with these drugs which, when discovered, becomes the cause of the death sentence. It is common knowledge that some unscrupulous airline personnel actually implicate unsuspecting passengers in this game of death. It is important, in our view, that the airline authorities carry out thorough investigation into this unwholesome practice so as to save innocent travellers from paying with their life for crimes they know nothing about.
We urge the federal government to give a serious thought to reinstating the principle of reciprocity in its foreign policy, especially as it relates to countries whose governments do not give heed to pleas of pardon from the Nigerian government for Nigerians who are in trouble in their countries. In the case of the recent execution, the Saudi Arabia government, reports said, was asked to temper justice with mercy but that did not yield any positive result. That, indeed, is an unfriendly act.
As much as we condemn the get-rich-quick syndrome that makes trafficking in drugs attractive, we believe that it would be advisable to relate more with governments that would show compassion in matters as serious as taking their lives, or a government that would consider pleas made on behalf of Nigerians on death row and agree, in some cases, that they be extradited home to face the law.
As a matter of urgency, we appeal to the federal government to commence negotiations that may lead to the release of the remaining 20 people on death row in Saudi Arabia as well as look into the cases of other Nigerians in similar situations in other countries across the world. It will not be good for the government if all of them are, in the end, executed.
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