Strong indications emerged last night that President Muhammadu Buhari may have ordered a “thorough” probe into the circumstances that led to the arrest of three Nigerian pilgrims, who were alleged to have trafficked cocaine to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
The probe, it was gathered, emerged on a day the Federal Government in a bid to “redeem” its image begun an enhanced screening of pilgrims to the holy land, following the arrest of the pilgrims.
It will be recalled that three pilgrims from Kawara State were recently arrested for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia and the Presidency has issued a threat to punish some agencies for negligence.
An impeccable source at the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), who confided in this newspaper, stated that the “embarrassment” caused the President as a result of the arrest had contributed in making the president “sad”, hence the probe of the drug agency to unravel the circumstances which led to the arrest of the Nigerians in foreign land.
According to the source, who pleaded not to be mentioned, the president “was hugely embarrassed and as such felt those who allowed the unholy incident leave the shore of the nation’s borders must be made to explain what happened.”
The source, who also hinted that a woman pilgrim was among those were arrested, noted that the president also felt that “travelling standards” were compromised by the NDLEA officials, which negated the Federal Government’s stance on corruption.
To underscore this fact, the source stated that: “The president is very angry because he believed that standards were compromised. In fact, the Federal Government is already considering a total overhaul and restructuring of the NDLEA.
In the past, for instance, the culture had been that any pilgrim travelling is allowed to come in with his relatives and luggage. “But since this occurred, relatives are not allowed again including helping their relatives who are going on the pilgrimage.
This is a sharp contrast and a departure of the past. Here every pilgrim carries his or her luggage and awaits officials to screen them individually.” In another vein, Saturday Telegraph gathered that government has commenced full scale investigation to unravel how the drug was not detected by the Nigerian security operatives at the Hajj camps across the nation.
There were indications that heads are likely to roll over the incident as a high powered investigative team had been set up to determine if there was a compromise or just security laxity at the camps.
Spokesman for the NDLEA, Ofoyeju Mitchell, who confirmed this, said the Chairman/Chief Executive of the agency, Col. Muhammad Abdallah (retd.), had ordered investigation into the arrest of the trio in Saudi Arabia, in connection with substances suspected to be cocaine.
Abdallah who expressed disappointment over the unfortunate incident constituted a panel of inquiry headed by the Director of Operations and General Investigation, Mr. Olugbenga Mabo, to immediately investigate the incident.
He stated that the agency would address the situation with every sense of seriousness and urgency, while also stressing that the agency had also deployed more investigators to all the screening camps nationwide.
Although, Mitchell could not speak further on how far the investigation would go, but sources said the problem might lead to the reshuffle of operations heads in most of the states and heightening of screening and searches of all remaining intending pilgrims.
The sources further stated that there is no full proof security anywhere in the world, stressing that even in the United States, there is tendency to miss some details. Most times, security at the camps is relaxed because of the belief that pilgrims are going to perform holy rites. According to the NDLEA boss, “narcotic smuggling is criminal and the involvement of pilgrims is utterly reprehensible.
This is unfortunate and we are working very hard to get to the root of it. The agency is handling this case with every sense of seriousness and urgency because this action has negatively affected the image of Nigeria.
We have also taken measures to intensify the on-going screening of pilgrims who are yet to depart to Saudi Arabia to prevent a reoccurrence of the sad incident.”
Meanwhile, the NDLEA boss also called on pilgrims to uphold the principle of probity, patriotism and eschew any act capable of bringing the image of the country to disrepute.