Outrage greets security agencies’ search of Atiku’s jet

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By Emmanuel Aziken, Clifford Ndujihe, Lawani Makairu,Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Dirisu Yakubu

ABUJA — OUTRAGE, yesterday, greeted security agencies’ search on the private jet of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP presidential candidate, in Abuja, on his arrival from Dubai.




Ex Vice President Atiku Abubakar

Alhaji Abubakar alleged that the move was meant to harass and intimidate him and his supporters. He had been in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on holiday since winning the PDP’s ticket, last month.

However, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN and the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, said there was nothing wrong in the search. While FAAN said only the president is exempted from security search, Sirika said all passengers must submit themselves to searches at Nigerian airports.

This came as the Presidency deflated linkage of President Muhammadu Buhari to the development, saying the president could not be dragged into the issue.

The APC said it would not respond to the issue that it did not directly pertain to the party, its spokesman, Mr. Lanre Isa-Onilu said.

Notable Nigerians and groups, who spoke on the matter, yesterday included Afenifere stalwart, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed; Afenifere Publicity secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; and the PDP.

I cannot be intimidated —Atiku

Confirming the search on his twitter handle, Atiku said: “I arrived Abuja this (yesterday) 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.’’

It was gathered that the private jet conveying Atiku from Dubai landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at 1:30am, into the waiting arms of the security operatives.

Sources said the DSS operatives searched Atiku and the jet, alongside officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs Service.

The combined security team, it was learned, said they had an arrest warrant to search the PDP presidential candidate.

They were said to have stripped everything, including the luggage, and had also searched the pilot and co-pilot and had cameras and video tapes to record the search.

Also confirming the incident, Segun Showunmi, spokesman of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organization, lamented the “gestapo styleâ€￾ of the nation’s security agencies, adding that the PDP Presidential candidate remained resolute in his quest to defeat President Buhari in 2019.

While noting that search of individuals at the airports was not in itself a novelty; he warned the ruling party to brace up for the imminent defeat at the polls, and that no amount of threat or intimidation would make Atiku take his eyes “off the ball.â€￾

“I can confirm to you that His Excellency was searched but we don’t have any problem with that. However, we wish to state here that we cannot be intimidated. Atiku is determined to set this nation free from the terrible economic squeeze it has been subjected to in the past three and a half years. They are jittery but the plot to use gestapo style of intimidation will not work,’’ he said.

Only the President has immunity from security check —FAAN

Speaking on the development, the General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Herrietta Yakubu, said only the President’s plane is exempted from security checks and searches at all airports in Nigeria.

“it is only the president’s plane that cannot be searched by airport security at all airports in Nigeria. All other planes are normally searched. It is normal,â€￾ she said.

Why we searched Atiku’s plane —Aviation minister

In like manner, the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, in a statement, described Atiku’s allegation as an attempt to grab the headlines, insisting that the search was in order.

He said: ‘’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, Immìgration, health and security screening.

‘’Where the aircraft is private, or charter, as the PDP candidate did, such arrivals are met by a team of the Immìgration, Customs and other security agencies. They go to the arriving aircraft as a team. The airport authorities confirm that this is a routine process, applicable 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, which the President of Nigeria uses, there is the presence of Immìgration 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.â€￾