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Aviation Minister: Why Atiku was searched at the airport

Valentine Chinyem

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Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation, has condemned what he described as, “a mischevious attempt to grab the headlines”, following airport officials raid and search of the Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar’s private jet and personnel with him, in Abuja on arrival from Dubai on Sunday.

Atiku who was on vacation in Dubai, said via Twitter that security operatives with the aim of intimidating him and his staff, searched him, his staff and his plane on return to Nigeria from Dubai.

His tweet reads: “I arrived to Abuja this 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.”

However the minister while reacting, condemned those who are making a big deal out of the search, saying it is a routine process.

He noted that it is mandatory for all incoming passengers on international flights to go through customs, Immigration, health and security screening, while adding that only the President is exempted from routine.

The statement reads: “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, Immigration, 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 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 Immìgration and other security officials who must stamp his or her passport on arrival.

The statement continues: “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 “

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