Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Sunday alleged that on his return from Dubai, he was unusually search by security agents in an attempt to intimidate him.
Atiku had been in Dubai since October after he emerged winner of the PDP presidential primary election which was held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
He held strategic meetings in Dubai with members of his campaign team in preparation for the February presidential election.
Senate President Bukola Saraki who serves as the Director-General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation; the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus; his running mate, former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, among others, were all present at the meetings held in Dubai.
Atiku who arrived Nigeria at about 1:30am on Sunday morning alleged that he was greeted by security agents who searched his private jet.
“I arrived in 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,” Mr. Atiku said on twitter.
Mr. Atiku’s spokesman, Paul Ibe, noted that it was not the right way they expected Atiku to return from his holidays, but desperate efforts by supporters of the president to cast the PDP candidate in bad light had to be occasionally slapped down.
“All what they want to do is to embarrass the former vice president,” Ibe said. “They searched his plane hoping to find incriminating items that could use to disgrace him, but their searched turned up nothing. Not even a dime in illegal currency was found on him.”
“Usually we have the immigration, customs and health officials come in to check people on board when we want to fly out and when we return into the country,” Mr. Ibe said. “But today’s search was done by plainclothes men who did not identify themselves.”
Also confirming the incident, the spokesman for the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation, Mr. Segun Sowumi, noted that the former Vice President was not too bothered about the search, saying that Mr. Atiku believe they are only doing their jobs.
He however expressed worry that the action was tilting towards what he would describe as “dictatorship”.
“We have taken what happened at the airport as one of the prices to be paid for leadership.
“We knew they (the government) are jittery, but we never expected this garrison style from them. However, if the action is to intimidate us, they have failed. No amount of intimidation will move us away from our set objectives and goals.
“We are just appealing to Nigerians to join us by getting PVCs ready to get a new government in 2019,” Mr. Sowumi said.
Security agents says searching Atiku’s Private jet was in order
Speaking about the incident, the security agents from the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Department of State Services (DSS) and Police, who reportedly introduced themselves as “special forces”, claimed they were searching for foreign currencies and ammunition.
The spokesman for the DSS however denied knowledge of the search.
“You are the one informing me now, I’m not aware,” DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, told Punch.
PDP accuses security agents of tampering with Atiku’s gadgets and documents
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in its reaction to the incident criticized the Federal Government over what it described as the physical harassment of its presidential candidate.
According to the opposition party, a special security squad of army, police and paramilitary agencies was unleashed on Atiku.
The party claimed that the security agents who were acting on orders from above could not find any incriminating items on Atiku, but however tampered with some of his gadgets and personal documents including campaign materials.
“The Peoples Democratic Party condemns in the strongest terms the unleashing of a special security squad of army, police and paramilitary agencies by the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency to physically harass our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, at the Abuja airport upon his return from Dubai.
“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.
“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.”
“The PDP completely rejects such violence against the person of our presidential candidate by the Buhari Presidency, which we know has been jittery over Atiku Abubakar’s soaring popularity since his emergence as our candidate.
“We invite the world to note that having failed to drag down our presidential candidate with spurious allegations and smear campaign, the 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.”
“We invite President Buhari to recall that as a presidential candidate, he had occasions to travel out of the country and the government in power never besieged or harassed him in any way. His administration should therefore not introduce such violence in our democratic space.
“Finally, the PDP counsels the APC and the Buhari Presidency to know that power belongs to God and that the time has come for Nigerians to choose a new President, for which they have collectively rallied around Atiku Abubakar and that their resort to violence, smear campaign, character assassination and rigging will not change this resolve,” the PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, stated.
Federal Government reacts, describes Atiku’s claim as “a mischievous attempt to grab the headlines”
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in his reaction over the incident, denied Atiku’s claim, saying that it was a normal routine procedures.
“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,” Mr. Sirika 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,” Sirika added. “This is one of such.”