Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, was searched at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport because it standard operating procedure, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika has said.
But a political associate of the former number two and former deputy spokesman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Timi Frank, says the search was intended to plant foreign currency and implicate Atiku.
Other sources say the search was conducted to see if the politician was bringing home a war chest of foreign currencies to prosecute next year’s election.
On arrival in Abuja from Dubai, where he has been for weeks after winning the PDP ticket, Atiku twitted how he and his aircraft were subjected to unprecedented search by a special squad comprising of soldiers, DSS operatives, and other government agents.
Following Atiku’s tweet and the public outcry that followed, Minister Hadi Sirika in a statement titled, “All passengers should submit themselves to checks at our airports,” 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 using the private charter wing, 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, applying to all international arrivals, including the ministers 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 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 airport. 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.”
However, Timi Frank says it was an orchestrated plot to implicate Atiku. “Nothing, was however found on him or in his aircraft. The plan to also drop bags of foreign currencies and other implicating things in Atiku’s aircraft on his arrival was also unsuccessful ” he said.
He disclosed further that members of the search squad confessed that they were directed by the presidency to embarrass the former Vice President.
He added, “The security men and the presidency were disappointed when nothing implicating (was) found on either Atiku or his aircraft.
“We condemn President Muhammadu Buhari’s move to desperately nail the PDP presidential candidate. If former President Goodluck Jonathan was so harsh on President Buhari in 2015, he couldn’t have occupied the office today.
“Due to information at our disposal, I have been saying it that the PDP presidential candidate is not safe under this administration because the Buhari’s administration is deploying all manners of devilish strategies to nail all the opposition leaders especially, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.”
“We wish to inform the international community to take note of how Buhari administration is intimidating the opposition presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who has served Nigeria as Vice President for eight years.”