Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has explained why the private jet of PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was search upon arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Sunday morning.
The former Vice President just returned from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he had been on vacation. He landed at about 1.30am and found a soecial security team waiting to search his aircraft.
Atiku confirmed the development on Sunday afternoon, saying it was an attempt to harass and intimidate him.
But Sirika, in a statement issued Sunday night, described Atiku’s outburst as “a mischievous attempt to grab the headlines”, alleging 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.”
He stated further: “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 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 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.”
Many have hiwever wondered if Atiku, in the last few years, had gone through such a check and why this search was seen as special and different.
Atiku and his team were reportedly held back for about 30 minute while the search lasted
A source was quoted as saying that the search may have been necessitated because the former Vice President’s arrival was unexpected. He had been due to arrive on Monday.