*You’re a scaremonger – FG
By Chesa Chesa and Myke Uzendu, Abuja
Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has said that the search to which he was subjected at the airport on his arrival from Dubai, United Arab Emirate was an attempt by the Federal Government to intimidate him.
But the Federal Government reacted sharply calling him a scaremonger and insisting that every citizen passing through the airports in Nigeria is searched.
The former Vice President who is challenging President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in the 2019 presidential election after his ordeal at the airport had tweeted: “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.”
Atiku’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has also condemned in the strongest terms the unleashing of a special security squad of army, police and paramilitary agencies to physically harass its Presidential candidate at the Abuja airport, upon his return from Dubai.
The party in a statement by its Spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan said it was shocking when the deadly squad, in a gestapo style attack, and acting on ‘orders from above’ rushed the PDP candidate immediately he landed and attempted to physically manhandle him before invading his aircraft.
The statement reported that “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 from the Buhari Presidency, which it says has been jittery over Atiku Abubakar’s soaring popularity since his emergence as a preferred 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.
“The Buhari Presidency and the APC should bear in mind that this is an attack on our democracy and the collective sensibility of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians, across board, who have accepted the choice of
Atiku Abubakar as Nigeria’s next President and they will vigorously deploy every means available in a democracy to defend him and our democratic process” stated PDP.
The party reported that Atiku Abubakar has the highest demography of supporters and volunteers across the nation and will not hesitate to call them out in defence of democracy if another such attempt is made against its candidate.
“Nigeria is not a conquered territory and anybody that wants to foist a totalitarian regime on our land will be firmly resisted.
‘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” the party stressed.
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 the resolve.
However, the Federal Government’s reaction was contained in statement signed by the Minister of State, Aviation Hadi Sirika,who said that search on returnees on international is a routine practice recently introduced by the federal government.
In a statement on Sunday in Abuja the Minister said: “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, 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.
On the search, the senator representing Bayelsa East constituency at the National Assembly, Ben Murray-Bruce, has condemned what he alleged as “reckless harassment” of the presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, on his twitter page.