Alhaji Abubakar alleged that the move was meant to harass and intimidate him and his supporters. He had been in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on holiday since winning the PDP’s ticket, last month.
However, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN and the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, said there was nothing wrong in the search. While FAAN said only the president is exempted from security search, Sirika said all passengers must submit themselves to searches at Nigerian airports.
This came as the Presidency deflated linkage of President Muhammadu Buhari to the development, saying the president could not be dragged into the issue.
The APC said it would not respond to the issue that it did not directly pertain to the party, its spokesman, Mr. Lanre Isa-Onilu said.
Notable Nigerians and groups, who spoke on the matter, yesterday included Afenifere stalwart, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed; Afenifere Publicity secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; and the PDP.
I cannot be intimidated —Atiku
Confirming the search on his twitter handle, Atiku said: “I arrived Abuja this (yesterday) 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.’’
It was gathered that the private jet conveying Atiku from Dubai landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at 1:30am, into the waiting arms of the security operatives.
Sources said the DSS operatives searched Atiku and the jet, alongside officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs Service.
The combined security team, it was learned, said they had an arrest warrant to search the PDP presidential candidate.
They were said to have stripped everything, including the luggage, and had also searched the pilot and co-pilot and had cameras and video tapes to record the search.
Also confirming the incident, Segun Showunmi, spokesman of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organization, lamented the “gestapo style” of the nation’s security agencies, adding that the PDP Presidential candidate remained resolute in his quest to defeat President Buhari in 2019.
While noting that search of individuals at the airports was not in itself a novelty; he warned the ruling party to brace up for the imminent defeat at the polls, and that no amount of threat or intimidation would make Atiku take his eyes “off the ball.”
“I can confirm to you that His Excellency was searched but we don’t have any problem with that. However, we wish to state here that we cannot be intimidated.
Atiku is determined to set this nation free from the terrible economic squeeze it has been subjected to in the past three and a half years. They are jittery but the plot to use gestapo style of intimidation will not work,’’ he said.