The Federal Government on Sunday said the search on the aircraft of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, at the Abuja airport was a routine exercise that applied to all international arrivals.
The Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said this in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.
Sirika said while it was 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.
He described the checks as mandatory, conventional, internationally applied and routine, adding that no one is excused from them under the nation’s laws.
While urging law-abiding citizens to respect the laws of the country, Sirika advised prominent Nigerians not to seek to be treated over and above the citizens they wish to serve.
The minister claimed that the public outcry that followed the routine exercise was a mischievous attempt to grab headlines.
The statement read, “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.
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“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 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.
“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.”