By Ayo Kehinde
On his return to the country from a two –week political retreat in Dubai with his campaign team, Atiku, the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party tweeted about his unusually intense screening by security details, some in mufti but most of whom were reportedly unknown to the DSS and the Nigerian Customs and Immigrations .
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.
The next minute as Nigerians were reacting to the security highj-handedness, a controversy ensued between the Federla Government and the PDP.
Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, said the search was an overkill, meant to intimidate the Presidential candidate of the party, adding that it would backfire as the people are already fired up and ready to support him.
He said: “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.”
It added, “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 statement read.
In a swift reaction, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika said opposition party was over reacting to a mere security regime carried out on persons arriving at the airport, particularly in a private jet as the presidential candidate of the PDP did on his arrival from a two-weeks retreat to Dubai/
He 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. This is one of such”, Sirika said in a statement Sunday evening.
“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”,