Only The President Is Exempt From Airport Security Screening, Aviation Minister Tells Atiku
The Federal Government has responded to the claim by Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that he was "intimidated" during a check at the airport on his return to Abuja from Dubai.
The former Vice-President had claimed that he and members of his staff were subjected to "intimidation" during the security screening at the Abuja airport on Sunday.
However, a statement by Hadi Sirika, Nigeria's Minister of Aviation on Sunday, noted that the screening was a routine process and only the President was exempted from such checks.
The Aviation Minister said the "claim by Atiku is a mischevious attempt to grab the headlines", noting that the search was part of standard procedure.
The statement published in a series of tweets, read: "The claim by @atiku 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 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 Ministers, 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 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."
The minister affirmed that the PDP presidential candidate was subjected to the check, and insisted that he was "accorded full respect as a former vice-president".
The statement continued: "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 former Vice President of Nigeria.
"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."