Atiku
Atiku Abubakar is the main challenger of President Muhammadu Buhari for the 2019 elections

The Nigerian Government says the travel bag of former vice-president Atiku Abubakar was searched by security operatives because checks at the airport are mandatory and conventional.

The country’s Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, made this known on Sunday evening as he dismissed PDP’s allegation that Atiku, its presidential candidate for the 2019 elections, was intimidated by security operatives on arrival from Dubai.

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Atiku had alleged that he was searched and intimidated by airport security personnel at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

But Sirika dismissed the claim, saying it was a mischievous attempt aimed at attracting media attention.

According to the minister, the search conducted on Atiku was a normal screening exercise carried out on all passengers at the airport.

“For the records, all incoming passengers on international flights go through customs, immigration, health and security screening,” he said in a statement.

“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 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.’’

He also said that by standard procedure, all aircraft on international arrivals must first of all park at the international wing of the airport.

Sirika further said, “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.’’