Zainab Habibu Kila, Lady accused of Smuggling Drugs Graduates from NDLEA Academy

Zainab Habibu Kila, who was accused of smuggling drugs by the Saudi authorities in 2018, on Friday graduated from the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Academy in Jos.

 

Her father, Habibu Kila shared photos from the graduation while thanking God.

 

Zainab Kila was wrongly accused of smuggling hard drugs into Saudi Arabia in 2018 and she was detained for days before the intervention of the Nigerian government led to her release.

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Zainab Habibu Kila, Lady accused of Smuggling Drugs Graduates from NDLEA Academy
Zainab Habibu Kila

The Jigawa lady was framed by a drug cartel while traveling for lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia in 2018 through the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, MAKIA with her mother, Maryam, and sister, Hajara.

 

The then student at Maitama Sule University, Kano, was on On December 26, 2018 arrested by Saudi authorities for allegedly travelling with a luggage containing unlawful substances believed to be tramadol.

 

At the Jeddah Airport, the Saudi Authorities intercepted the bag and later traced Miss Aliyu and arrested her in her hotel room.

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She was charged and detained for four months by the Saudi Arabian anti-drug trafficking agency over alleged drug trafficking charges.

 

After several appeals by her parents, media and civil society organization, authorities discovered that drug barons, in connivance with Kano airport workers, tagged a luggage containing the drugs in her name.

 

She was released after Nigerian and Saudi authorities independently investigated the matter and established her innocence. Miss Aliyu was released on April 30, 2019 and returned home two weeks after.

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Miss Zainab Habibu Kila is among the 2,000 newly trained NDLEA officers commissioned at the agency’s academy in Jos, Plateau State on Friday.

Zainab Habibu Kila, a Lady accused of Smuggling Drugs into Saudi Arabia
Zainab Habibu Kila and Parent

Her father, Habibu Kila, confirmed the development on Saturday, saying she was commissioned into the service of the agency as Assistant Narcotic Officer.

 

In a May 2019 interview with PUNCH, Habibu Nuhu Kila, the father of Zainab, believed Allah used Zainab’s arrest in Saudi Arabia to test his family.

 

He narrated that;

“My family – wife and two daughters – travelled to Saudi Arabia on December 24, 2018. On arrival in Saudi Arabia, they proceeded to Medina after spending one day. The following day, at about 2pm Nigerian time, my wife called to inform me that they had a problem with the security agency there. I asked her what the problem was and she said while they were sleeping, six men came into their room and asked who Zainab was. She said as she showed them Zainab, one of our daughters, the security agents said no, this can’t be the person they are looking for. At that point, my wife said she told them, okay, this is the Zainab we have in here (this room). Then, according to my wife, they (security agents) said, Zainab, you left your bag at the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah. Then, she (Zainab) said she didn’t leave any luggage at the airport. She said all the bags they travelled with were in the room with them but they insisted that there was a luggage at the airport that belonged to her. They said its tag had Zainab’s name on it. They told my wife that they would have to go with her and get more information. They even said they would bring her back in a few hours. My wife told me this at about 2pm and all I said in Arabic was, “I submit everything to God Almighty.” So, very early the next morning, I went to Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport where they departed from and laid a formal complaint, in oral and written forms at the office of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. Then they went into action to find the people who worked on the day my family travelled. They got them. They were invited and questioned. In my presence, they (six of them) confessed that they tagged Zainab’s name on another bag that contained drugs. To my surprise, they said the senior one among them masterminded the whole thing and a lady called Rhoda said she was the one that fixed the tag on Zainab’s bag and that the bag was sent by somebody else. The evidence was there. They knew the bag would be coming to them because there were text messages they had exchanged among themselves, which also served as evidence. The picture of the bag was sent to the person that would take delivery of the bag at the other end – Holy land. They were detained and after that, the NDLEA commenced preliminary investigation into the matter. They sent their reports to their headquarters in Abuja and there, they also carried out another investigation. They charged the suspects to court – a Federal High Court in Kano. Not only that, they sent a letter to Saudi Arabia, informing them that my daughter knew nothing about the bag and that six persons, one at large, were the ones who committed the offence. From there, I started moving from one office to another until I reached the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri. The President intervened by directing the Attorney General of the Federation to quickly see to the release of Zainab and within two weeks, my daughter was released.



What was your initial reaction?

My initial reaction was that it is an act of God and I thought, God has so many ways to test human beings. I said to myself; this is how I am going to be tested by God. Secondly, I said I couldn’t just sit down, fold my arms and see my innocent girl suffer for what she knew nothing about. From that period and until she was released, I can tell you that I didn’t know how sugar and salt tasted. But I tried to manage the family and myself because if I am down, the entirely family will be down. And whenever I am worried, I know that God will see us through and God has seen us through.

 

What gave you the courage to continue to push for her release?

What gave me the courage to persevere was seeing those who perpetrated the act. Secondly, I think as a Nigerian, I have the right, not because Zainab is my daughter, to pursue a just cause and this one affected me personally. So, I said to myself that I couldn’t just sit down and fold my arms. I started going from office to office and even to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. And my wife and the other daughter, Hajara, were over there; they sent messages to the Saudi Arabia Embassy and the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia. And here in Nigeria, what gave me more courage and hope was when the presidential aide, Dabiri, addressed the press on the matter. She said some people were being punished for an offence they never committed and I told myself, “This is my case, I need to see her.” I wrote a petition to the President through her office. The day I went to her office, she was not around but a day later, she called and told me that she saw my petition and that I should report to her office on Tuesday. So I went there. When I got there, she told me the President had directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (Abubakar Malami), to see to the release of my daughter. She personally took me to the office of the AGF three times before we met him and in my presence, the minister directed that the process should commence immediately and shortly after, my daughter was released.

 

So how did the government or Dabiri get to know about it?

The government got to know about it through the NDLEA – the highest agency as far as the control of drugs is concerned in Nigeria. They conducted their own investigation and you know, they are part of government. So, the government knew through them and not through me. Through my petition, they also got to know that there was evidence and that the people responsible had been caught and charged to court.

 

How were you and your daughter able to convince the authorities that she was innocent?

Not me. I just wrote a petition and in Saudi Arabia, they found nothing on her. You know, investigation took four months. During this period, all along, the investigation continued. I was not the one who exonerated her. The authorities in both Nigeria and Saudi Arabia did that.

 

Were there times when you felt some people doubted your story?

No. There was no time that I had that feeling. I told you earlier that I took it upon myself that the account was the will of God and God knows that my daughter was innocent and God doesn’t punish unjustly. I strongly believe in that. But you cannot tell the perception of people though. From the day this thing started, I never doubted my belief. But if they doubt my story, then they are unfair to us. Even the investigation by the NDLEA was published. And I swear to God, from the period that I started up to the point when my daughter was released, I never spent a kobo. I never gave anybody one kobo from my pocket. Never!



How did your wife take the news?

I thank God that I have a woman that I am really, really proud of as a wife because she is strong. All our family members acted in the same way because we believed it was an act of God. They were together when Zainab was taken away. So, I cannot begin to tell you how a mother would feel when a daughter is snatched from her hands and accused wrongly. The feeling cannot be expressed. I encouraged them to be firm and that God would stand by us.

 

Some people believe that you must be close to someone in government and they attributed that to the reason why the Nigerian government was responsive. It is believed that it is only when such a thing affects their own that they take it seriously, how close are you to the authorities?

I totally debunk that assertion because I am an ordinary citizen. I am a journalist like you. I worked with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria as an Assistant Director (News). I just pursued my case. This is where I will tell Nigerians to believe in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. I have seen him several times but he doesn’t know me and I don’t know him. I am a Nigerian and through that, my case got to his office. There is nobody that linked me up to the government. I told you earlier how Abike Dabiri that I had never seen in my life took up my case. Though she worked here in Kano, the first time I saw her was when she received my petition and invited me to her office. That was the first time that I ever saw her. An ordinary person can have access to the office of the President of Nigeria.

 

Did you at any point in time entertain an iota of doubt or lose hope that your daughter would regain her freedom?

There was no single time that I lost hope. There was no time for that. During the period, I spoke to her every day. I gave her the courage she needed. I told her not to worry and that God was with us because she was innocent and did nothing wrong. I told her God would see her through. Every day, I would encourage her and at the end of each conversation, I would tell her, “God bless you”. And indeed, she received God’s blessing. Throughout the period, she was firm and in control of herself. She was composed. Every day, she would recite the Holy Quran. You can imagine how someone that was isolated would feel. At times, she would tell me: “Baba, it is you that I pity because I know the situation you are in at the moment.” So, my wife and her sister always talked to her every day to encourage her. I can say that I am very grateful to God and the government. When I reached out to the government, I knew they could work, especially the NDLEA. I tell you, they are super. I appreciate them. I am surprised why people say that Nigeria is not working. I see Nigeria working.

 

What state is your daughter in now?

She is free now. I talk to her regularly. You know, she has to complete the relevant documentation. But I am expecting her back home any time from now because I have been in contact with her and the authorities – that is, the Nigerian Embassy (in Saudi Arabia).

 

Do you think there were Nigerians in similar situations who were killed in the past for crimes they knew nothing about?

Of course, yes. (There will be) several. My advice to Nigerians is that if you have a case, follow it up very well and insist on seeing it to its logical conclusion. Don’t give up easily. We should also understand our leaders because sometimes, they don’t know what is happening. Sometimes, we judge people wrongly as this experience has changed my perception about Nigeria.

 

If you had the opportunity to be alone with the airport officials who almost got your daughter killed, what would you say or do to them?

Nothing! I met them twice. One was on the day they committed the offence and the second day, I was with them. In fact, that lady – Rhoda – knelt down to beg me for forgiveness. She said it was what she was doing for a living. I wonder how one can live on the suffering of human lives. I controlled myself. First, I have a conviction – my faith tells me there is a way out of anything that befalls us. Submit everything to God! Be patient and God will be with you and He will see you through. I submitted to God; I was patient and God saw me through. That’s my belief. The main reason why my family travelled to Saudi Arabia was to say ‘thank you to God’. My wife and I have been married for 25 years and I have never quarrelled with her. We have never had any misfortunes. We are blessed. God has provided us with everything we need in life in the last 25 years. There was no day that we lacked anything. So, we decided to go and thank God and you know, God must test every human being and that was our test and we passed it.



What is your advice to Nigerians as regards to your experience?

I must thank every Nigerian for everything. This issue brought unity to the country because Nigerians were united as they prayed for my family. You know, there were demonstrations and agitations in some places for our cause. Some people I had never met were ready to stand by me. If we can unite like this, we as a nation can achieve a lot. That way, we can rule out divisions among ethnic groups. Nigerians should always stand by their rights. If you have any cause to pursue, pursue it. I never knew that our leaders could even listen to anybody, let alone solve our problems. If you remember what Chief Femi Fani-Kayode said when my daughter was released, you will understand where I’m heading. He said for the first time in four years, he was proud to be a Nigerian because of the release of Zainab and the way the government responded to the matter. This is good for the unity of the country.

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