•As ex VP alleges intimidation
By Lawrence Olaoye and Lateef Ibrahim
The Federal Government has reacted to claims of intimidation by presidential flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar over checks on his flight upon his return from Dubai yesterday.
Security agents on Sunday searched the aircraft that brought into the country the former vice president and presidential candidate of the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
The development was confirmed by the former vice president in a tweet by him.
He said the incident was planned to intimidate him.
In a quick reaction however, the Minister of State Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in a statement yesterday accused Atiku of scaremongering in order to grab media headlines.
The Minister explained that all incoming passengers must go through immigration and security checks no matter their status.
The statement reads: “This is a mischievous attempt to grab the headlines. Nigerians need to know that one of the resolutions of the Atiku team at their recently-concluded, opulently-held Dubai retreat was to embark on scaremongering. This is one of such.
“For the records, all incoming passengers on international flights go through customs, Immigration, health and security screening.
“Where the aircraft is using the private, charter wing, as the PDP candidate did, such arrivals are met by a team of the Immigration, customs and other security agencies. They go to the arriving aircraft as a team. The airport authorities confirm that this is a routine process, applying to all international arrivals, including the minister unless the passenger is the President of Nigeria. The President, the Vice President and passengers aboard planes on the Presidential air fleet use the Presidential wing of the airport.
“It is also important to state that even in the Presidential Wing of the airport the President of Nigeria uses, there is the presence of Immigration and other security officials who must stamp his or her passport on arrival.
“By standard procedure, all aircraft on international arrivals must first of all park at the international wing of the aircraft. They can move to the domestic terminal only upon the completion of the arrival processes.
“While it is true that the Task Force on Currency at the airport did the routine action of checking the former Vice President’s travel bag, he was accorded full respect as a senior citizen.
“These checks are mandatory, conventional, internationally applied and routine. No one is excused from them under our laws. These checks are carried out on all international arrivals and President Buhari does not get involved in them.
“Law-abiding citizens are encouraged to respect the laws of the country and our VIPs should not seek to be treated over and above the citizens they wish to serve.”
In a tweet on his verified two handle, @atiku, said: l arrived in Abuja this morning to a search by agents of the state, aimed at intimidating me and my staff.
“I am committed to building a Nigeria where no citizen is intimidated by agents of state who are paid to protect them”, Atiku said.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a swift reaction yesterday, condemned the search on Atiku’s aircraft.
The country’s main opposition party alleged that the action of the airport security was to physically harass its presidential candidate, Atiku
Abubakar, at the Abuja airport, upon his return from Dubai.
The PDP made the condemnation in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja on Sunday.