FG justifies Atiku airport search; it’s wrong – PDP
The Minister of State, Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, has dismissed PDP’s allegation of intimidation on its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, by the security operatives on arrival from Dubai on Sunday.
Atiku and the PDP had on Sunday alleged that he was searched and intimidated by combined team of airport security personnel at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Reacting to the allegation in a statement, Sirika, however, described Atiku’s complaint as a mischievous attempt aimed at attracting media attention, saying the search conducted on Atiku was a normal screening exercise being carried out on all passengers at the airport.
The statement read: “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.’’
The minister further explained that by standard procedure, all aircraft on international arrivals must first of all park at the international wing of the aircraft.
He added that such aircraft could move to the domestic terminal only upon the completion of the arrival requirements.
“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.’’
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the act via a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, on Sunday in Abuja.
Ologbondiyan alleged that it was shocking when the “deadly squad” acting on ‘orders from above’ rushed Atiku immediately he landed at the airport.
He alleged that the security operatives attempted to physically manhandle Abubakar before invading his aircraft with arms to conduct a violent search.
Ologbondiyan said that the PDP completely rejected such violence against the person of its presidential candidate.
“The PDP is for peace, but we will not accept this recourse to violence”, adding that the alleged attack was an affront on the country’s democracy.
Ologbondiyan recalled President Muhammad Buhari as a Presidential candidate, had occasions to travel out of the country and the government in power never besieged or harassed him in any way.
He therefore advised the APC administration not to introduce violence in the country’s democratic space.
Abubakar had earlier twitted that he arrived Abuja on Sunday morning to a search by agents of the state, aimed at intimidating him and his staff.
“I am committed to building a Nigeria where no citizen is intimidated by agents of state who are paid to protect them,” Abubakar said.