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. 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 style” 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.” “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,” 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.”
Buhari can’t be dragged into this—Presidency
Also speaking, the Presidency faulted linkage of the president in the search and allegations of plots to implicate Atiku by planting illegal substances in the plane, asserting that President Buhari cannot descend so low as to send some persons to plant something in the aircraft of the Presidential candidate of PDP, just to implicate him. A source in the Presidency also directed Vanguard to find out from the suspected security agencies involved in the alleged secret plot to implicate the former Vice President to explain who sent them, maintaining that President Buhari would not be involved in such a thing. The source said: “You should ask all those involved to mention who sent them because the President of Nigeria cannot be dragged into this kind of thing.” PDP flays FG, says government out to truncate peaceful polls However, the PDP condemned what it described as the deployment of a special security squad of army, police and paramilitary agencies by the Presidency to search its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, at the Abuja airport, upon his return from Dubai yesterday. The party said it was shocking “when the deadly squad, in a Gestapo style attack, and acting on ‘orders from above’ rushed our candidate immediately he landed and attempted to physically manhandle him before invading his aircraft with dangerous weapons to conduct a violent search.” In a statement issued by its Spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said: “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. “We invite the world to note that having failed to drag down our Presidential candidate with spurious allegations and smear campaign, the All Progressives Congress, 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.”
I’m not surprised—Ayo Adebanjo
Stalwart of the Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said he was not surprised that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was harassed upon his return from Dubai, yesterday. His words: ‘’I am not surprised, this is President Buhari’s administration. I warn those who are going to vote for him that this man is not a democrat. He cannot tolerate opposition. He is a feudalist by birth, a conformist by training and a dictator in action. ‘’It is unfortunate that this is not the Nigeria I fought for. And unfortunately, people don’t know him. He is very desperate for power now. I only hope people have learned their lessons and by the grace of God, people of this country who love democracy and good government will push him out in February 2019.’’
It’s an act of intimidation— Afenifere
Afenifere speaking on the issue yesterday, said the administration had entered a panic mood. Speaking through its spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the socio-cultural group said: “Clearly it is an act of intimidation. It is unfortunate that these people cannot be unpredictable for once. The APC made a statement complaining about Atiku’s retreat in Dubai and that security agencies should put him on watch-list. Now he has arrived the country but they should even have pretended, but doing it straight at the airport shows clearly that these people have hit the panic mood and have begun to show excessive desperation and when that begins to happen, you are about to lose the game. A desperate team hardly wins the game.
Atiku as candidate is entitled to protocols—Junaid Mohammed
I wouldn’t want to bother myself talking about the PDP because clearly, the PDP is an interested party. I believe that as a candidate and the major candidate of the opposition, Atiku should be entitled to certain protocols and I believe that for whatever reason, they have no right to treat him that way. “I find what they did as condemnable and Atiku as a former vice-president is entitled to certain rights and as the principal candidate of the opposition, he is also entitled to certain rights and consideration and in this instance, those rights and considerations were not bestowed on him and I find that condemnable.”