Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, says President Muhammadu Buhari and vice-president Yemi Osinbajo are the only Nigerians exempted from routine search by security operatives at any airport in Nigeria.
The minister made this known in the wake of allegation by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that former vice-president Atiku Abubakar was intimidated by security operatives on arrival from Dubai on Sunday.
Atiku, the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 elections, had alleged that he was searched and intimidated by airport security operatives at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
But Sirika, in his first reaction, dismissed the claim, saying it was a mischievous attempt aimed at attracting media attention.
In another reaction to the allegation, the minister said the security checks were misinterpreted as having political undertone, when actually it was a case of professional and industry practice as regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Speaking through the ministry’s media aide, James Odaudu, Sirika said: “It should be noted that such checks as carried out on the former vice president’s aircraft are mandatory and routine, and that no one is exempted except the president, vice president and visiting presidents.
“The ICAO security programme also requires that ministers and senior government officials are screened in the same manner as other passengers as they are expected to set examples for the travelling public and to the aviation security officials responsible for screening passengers.
“It is a routine practice that all incoming aircraft and passengers on international flights must go through customs, immigration, health, security and money laundering checks.
“The general public is, therefore, assured that the ministry and its agencies would always accord the desired respect to the nation’s leaders, just as they are committed to ensuring the entrenchment of safety and security at the nation’s airports without political considerations.”