National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has uncovered a cartel that specialises in planting illicit drugs in travellers’ luggage.

NDLEA Chairman, Col. Muhammad Abdallah (rtd), disclosed this in a statement saying the cartel was uncovered after detectives embarked on investigation of a Nigerian lady identified as Zainab Aliyu.

Zainab was accused of entering Saudi Arabia with tramadol. The implication in this discovery by NDLEA is the realisation that many Nigerians arrested and executed for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia might be innocent. Zainab was arrested by Saudi Arabia Police on December 26, shortly after arriving for Lesser Hajj.

Zainab, a student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, had travelled from Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) in company with her mother, Mrs. Maryam Aliyu, and sister, Hajara Aliyu. She was later arrested over allegations that a luggage, bearing her name tag, contained the unlawful substance.

However, while in detention, the NDLEA had received a petition from Zainab’s father, seeking a probe of his daughter’s ordeal. The petition was signed by Zainab’s father, Habibu Nuhu Kila, and the travel agent, Rabi Umar Kazaure.

Consequently, the NDLEA Commander in charge of MAKIA had launched an investigation, which culminated in the arrest and arraignment before a Federal High Court in Kano of seven staff of the airport.

The accused are Idris Umar Shehu (alias Umar Sanda), Sanni Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Rhoda Adetunji, Udosen Itoro Henry and Sanni Hamisu.

In the report, which has since been forwarded to the Consul-General in Jeddah for action, it was further established that Zainab who, like her mother and sister, had only a luggage, and was not aware that a second bag had been labelled in her name.

It was further discovered in the course of investigation, that Rhoda Adetunji, an employee of the airport had “approached them asking for their remaining luggage as the luggage checked-in by the passengers went lower than the total weight”. Adetunji, according to the report, is one of the accused facing trial over the matter.

It was further established in the report, that one of the accused, Sani Suleiman, had sent a WhatsApp picture of two parcels to Umar Sanda. On December 24, 2018, Suleiman, again, allegedly, “sent a WhatsApp picture of two coloured luggage to a phone number belonging to Alhaji Gabari, now at large”.

The NDLEA added: “Based on the investigation activities carried out, it has been revealed that the said Zainab Habibu Aliyu is not the owner of the second luggage tagged in her name