Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation, has accused Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), of raising false alarm over his encounter with security operatives on Sunday.
Atiku was searched by security operatives upon his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The PDP presidential candidate had said the search was an attempt to intimidate him.
But reacting via a statement, Sirika said there was nothing out of the ordinary about the search conducted on Atiku.
He described it as a “routine process” which applies to all international arrivals “unless the passenger is the president of Nigeria”.
“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,” the statement read.
“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.”
The minister added that while it is true that the task force at the airport checked 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,” he said, adding that “no one is excused from them under our laws”.
“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,” Sirika added.
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