The Nigerian government Sunday said there was no ulterior motive behind the search a former vice president of the country and the presidential candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar and his staff underwent on arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, from Dubai.
Abubakar alleged earlier on Sunday that the search by the “agents of the state” was meant to intimidate him.
“I arrived to Abuja this morning to a search by agents of the state, aimed at intimidating me and my staff,” he tweeted.
But the country’s minister of aviation Hadi Sirika said the claim was false and “mischievous”.
“For the records, all incoming passengers on international flights go through customs, Immigration, health and security screening,” Sirika said.
“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.”
The minister confirmed that Abubakar was truly searched by the officials of Task Force on Currency at the airport, he insisted that former vice president was “accorded full respect as a former Vice President of Nigeria.”
He explained that these checks were part of the international standards applicable in air travels and have no exemption except “if the passenger is the President of Nigeria.”
“These checks are mandatory, conventional, internationally applied and routine,” Sirika said.
“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.”
A former spokesman of the ruling All Progressives Congress Timi Frank said in a statement on Sunday that the purpose of the search was to implicate Abubakar.
Frank alleged that the search squad planned to plant “bags of foreign currencies and other implicating things” in Abubakar’s aircraft on arrival in Abuja.
He said the officials, who carried out the search, confessed that they were directed by the presidency to embarrass the former Vice President.
Frank did not, however, say where, when and to whom the officials confessed.