The minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has reacted to the dust raised by the security screening of the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Atiku Abubakar and his private jet by security personnel shortly after he arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja yesterday.
Atiku had broken news of the search on his Twitter handle, “I arrived to 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. Together, #LetsGetNigeriaWorking Again.”
However, Sirika said in a statement that the checks are mandatory, conventional, internationally applied and routine adding that no one is exempted.
“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,” said Sirika in a statement.
Sirika alleged that Atiku was embarking on “a mischievous attempt to grab the headlines” adding “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.”
But spokesman for the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan denounced “the unleashing of a special security squad of army, police and paramilitary agencies by the Muhammadu Buhari presidency to physically harass our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.”
“It was shocking when the deadly squad, in a Gestapo style attack, and acting on ‘orders from above’, rushed at our candidate immediately he landed and attempted to physically manhandle him before invading his aircraft with dangerous weapons to conduct a violent search. This deadly squad violently tampered with certain personal documents and gadgets belonging to him, including some of his campaign documents.”
“While they did not find anything incriminating on our presidential candidate, this deadly squad, violently tampered with certain personal documents and gadgets belonging to him, including some of his campaign documents.”
“The PDP completely rejects such violence against the person of our presidential candidate by the Buhari Presidency, which we know has been jittery over Atiku Abubakar’s soaring popularity since his emergence as our candidate.
“We invite the world to note that having failed to drag down our presidential candidate with spurious allegations and smear campaign, the APC has now resorted to state-backed violence against him and must be held responsible should any harm befall him or any member of his campaign team.
“The PDP is for peace, but we will not accept this recourse to violence, which we believe is orchestrated to directly harm our presidential candidate, foist a siege mentality on the system and set the stage for series of coordinated violence, ostensibly to truncate a peaceful conduct of the 2019 general election.
“We invite President Buhari to recall that as a presidential candidate, he had occasions to travel out of the country and the government in power never besieged or harassed him in any way. His administration should therefore not introduce such violence in our democratic space.
“Finally, the PDP counsels the APC and the Buhari Presidency to know that power belongs to God and that the time has come for Nigerians to choose a new President, for which they have collectively rallied around Atiku Abubakar and that their resort to violence, smear campaign, character assassination and rigging will not change this resolve,” said Ologbondiyan.
Also reacting, a chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said Atiku’s humiliation is a testament to the fact that Buhari is not a democrat.
He said described the president as a leopard that cannot change its spots.
“He was born a feudalist and was not exposed; so he can do anything however unreasonable. There is nothing that Buhari will do that will surprise me.”
For the president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the action was a scary move, which has become a trail that does not portend good for the nation.
“This is scary moves. From Ike Ekweremadu to Atiku Abubakar, while Adams Oshiomhole and Orji Kalu under investigation and trial respectively move as they like. Thousands of Middle Belters murdered; no one is arrested.
“One army general is killed, 17 guys, including a traditional ruler rounded up. This is what happens when qualification for positions in our security agencies is a function of where you come from rather than your competence!”
For his part, PDP chieftain and former governor of old Ondo State, Chief Olabode George, described the act as “pettiness” and “absolutely sacrilegious and reprehensible.”
“If they can treat him (Atiku) that way, it is a prelude to what will happen in 2019; what is all these? We have to rise up and beyond this. He is not just anybody. For God’s sake, he is a candidate of a major political party for God’s sake.”
“How do we tell the international community and investor that their investment is safe in the country? He has never been convicted for God’s sake. This is pettiness; the days of doing these are over,” he said.
Reno Omokri, aide to the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, took to his twitter handle and wrote: “@Atiku just returned to Nigeria and @MBujari sent a team of army, police, customs and immigration officers to surround, then search his plane. What were they hoping to find? What is Buhari afraid of? Why this harassment? If Buhari performed, would he be afraid of losing?”