The family of Suleiman Olufemi, a Nigerian man who has been on death row in Saudi Arabia for 18 years, have appealed to Saudi authorities to show mercy and forgive their son.
Spokesperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) Abdur-Rahman Balogun said a tearful family delegation, comprising Suleiman’s aged parents, younger sibling, among others, made the appeal on a visit to NiDCOM’s Lagos office yesterday.
In 2002, Suleiman went on lesser hajj in Saudi Arabia where, alongside others, he was accused of being part of a mob action that killed a police officer in the kingdom. The others have been freed while Suleiman was sentenced to death.
According to Saudi Arabian law, the daughter of the late officer who was two years old at the time of the incident, and is now above 18, will determine if Suleiman should live or die.
NiDCOM chair Abike Dabiri-Erewa who received the delegation said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NiDCOM, the Nigerian Mission in Saudi Arabia, some members of the diaspora community in Saudi, Amnesty International as well as the House of Representatives committee on Diaspora had all intervened in the matter.
While cautioning Nigerians abroad to steer clear of trouble, Dabiri-Erewa wondered why a young, promising man who went for Umrah, allowed himself to be dragged into a mob action, more so in a foreign land. She assured the family that the Commission would work with other government agencies towards facilitating Suleiman’s return.
An electrician, Suleiman was born in Lagos on 20 April 1978. On arrival at the airport in Jeddah in 2002 for the Umrah, he was unable to reach his intended host in Jeddah on phone. He therefore went to a place called Karantina, where he met some Nigerians.
Days after, he followed the Nigerians that offered him accommodation to a car wash in the Bab Sharif area of Jeddah, where many African nationals worked as car cleaners.
Unfortunately, there was a mob action which resulted in the death of a police officer. Authorities raided the location and arrested him alongside 12 other Nigerians.
He was sentenced to death in May 2005 following a closed trial which took place in the absence of legal or consular representation, and without adequate interpretation and translation facilities.
The 12 others were sentenced to prison terms that were later commuted to lashes.