The federal government of Nigeria on Sunday, November 11, 2018 dismissed the allegations of intimidation by airport security raised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku, who is also a former vice president had said on Sunday afternoon that he was made to go through security search shortly after arriving at the international airport in Abuja from a holiday in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.
He said both himself and his staff members on-board his private jet were searched by security agencies, whom he did not specifically mention. He condemned the search as an attempt to intimidate him for his politics and said he would ensure no Nigerian citizen is subjected to such harrowing experience if he is elected president.
Reacting to the claim, Hadi Sirika, minister of state aviation issued a statement Sunday evening debunking Atiku’s account as “a mischievous attempt to grab the headlines”.
The minister also explained the procedures for take-off and landing at the international airport in Abuja. He said that:
“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”.
Sirika went on to suggest that Atiku’s claims had been hatched from Dubai to deface the President Buhari administration as intolerant of opposition ahead of a competitive general election.
“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 and this is one of such”.