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Why we searched Atiku at airport – Nigerian government reacts furiously to accusations of bias Updated for 2021

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Updated: February 26, 2021


The Nigerian minister of state for aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, has explained why the country’s main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was thoroughly searched at the airport on Sunday morning while returning from Dubai.

The search was reportedly carried out by a special security squad deployed by the presidency, according to a statement by former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Timi Frank.

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Frank alleged that the search on Atiku on Sunday was a plot to embarrass the People Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate on arrival from Dubai.

Frank said Atiku, who returned to Nigeria around 1am on Sunday morning from his vacation in Dubai was thoroughly searched by a Special Squad of security men deployed by the presidency for some hours with recording gadgets on them and in and around Atiku’s aircraft. “Nothing, was however found on him or in his aircraft.”

According to Frank, plan to also drop bags of foreign currencies and other implicating things in Atiku’s aircraft on his arrival was also unsuccessfull.

But the minister of aviation described such insinuation as “a mischievous attempt to grab the headlines”.

He said “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”.

Mr Sirika said “all incoming passengers on international flights go through customs, immigration, health and security screening”.

He explained: “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”.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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