Olusola Fabiyi , Olalekan Adetayo and Ifeanyi Onuba
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party , Atiku Abubakar, has alleged that on his return from Dubai , he was unusually searched by security agents with the aim of intimidating him .
Abubakar returned to Nigeria in the early hours of Sunday from Dubai , where he had been on holiday after winning the party ’ s presidential primary .
The primary was held in Port Harcourt , Rivers State on October 7 and 8 .
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Atiku , who arrived in Abuja in a private jet , was said to have been accompanied by some of his aides and children.
While in Dubai , he held meetings with members of his campaign team led by the Director – General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation , who is also the President of the Senate , Senator Bukola Saraki; National Chairman of the party , Prince Uche Secondus ; and his (Atiku ’ s ) running mate , Mr Peter Obi , among others .
While Atiku was away , the ruling All Progressives Congress called on security agencies to probe him over his trip.
Atiku claimed that on return to Nigeria , he was unusually searched by security agents.
Although he did not mention the number of security men that searched him or his luggage or aircraft, Atiku said the plan was to intimidate him and his staff.
Writing on his verified twitter handle , @ atiku , the former vice – president said , “I arrived in 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 .
“ Together, #LetsGetNigeriaWorkingAgain – Atiku Abubakar . ”
the spokesperson for the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation , Mr Segun Sowumi, said Atiku was not too bothered about the action of the security agents.
Rather , he said the former vice – president believed the security agents were doing their job , but expressed the feeling that the action was tilting towards what he called “ dictatorship . ”
Sowumi also said he did not have the exact number of security agents that were involved in the search .
He said , “We have taken what happened at the airport as one of the prices to be paid for leadership .
“ We knew they (the government) are jittery , but we never expected this garrison style from them . However, if the action is to intimidate us , they have failed . No amount of intimidation will move us away from our set objectives and goals .
“ We are just appealing to Nigerians to join us by getting PVCs ready to get a new government in 2019 . ”
How plot to plant foreign currencies on Atiku ’ s aircraft failed – Ex – APC spokesperson
Meanwhile , a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress , Mr Timi Frank, has alleged that the security search was a plot to embarrass Atiku .
Frank said Atiku was thoroughly searched by a Special Squad of security men deployed by the Presidency for some hours with recording gadgets on them and on and around Atiku ’ s aircraft.
“ Nothing was however found on him or on his aircraft, ” he said in a statement.
According to Frank, plan to also drop bags of foreign currencies and other implicating things on Atiku ’ s aircraft on his arrival was also unsuccessful .
Frank alleged that the special squad of security men who carried out the search confessed that they were directed by the Presidency to embarrass the former vice -president .
The squad , Frank claimed , were armed with recording gadgets in and out of Atiku ’ s aircraft “ to see if he returned to the country with foreign currencies or any other implicating materials . ”
The former APC spokesman said the security men and the Presidency were disappointed when nothing implicating was found on either Atiku or his aircraft.
While condemning what he tagged President Muhammadu Buhari’ s move to desperately nail the PDP presidential candidate , Frank said if former President Goodluck Jonathan was that harsh on Buhari in 2015 , he couldn’ t have occupied the office today .
Frank warned Buhari to desist from his act of desperation against the PDP presidential candidate .
He added, “Due to information at our disposal , I have been saying it that the PDP presidential candidate is not safe under this administration because the Buhari’ s administration is deploying all manner of devilish strategies to nail all the opposition leaders , especially Alhaji Atiku Abubakar .
“ We are using this medium to inform the international community to also take note of how Buhari’ s administration is intimidating the opposition presidential candidate , Atiku Abubakar , who has served Nigeria as Vice President for eight years . ”
When contacted , the Customs Public Relations Officer , Mr . Joseph Attah , said he was not aware of the development .
“ I completely don ’ t know about what you are talking about and I can ’ t respond to what I don ’ t know, ” he said .
The search was in order – Security agents
Security agents, who frisked the private jet of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party , Atiku Abubakar , on Sunday , The Punch has gathered , were searching for foreign currencies and ammunition .
Our correspondents gathered that the security agents, who were said to have introduced themselves as “special forces” , claimed they were searching for foreign currencies and ammunition .
According to investigations by one of our correspondents , the security agents were from the Nigeria Customs Service , Nigeria Immigration Service , Department of State Services and the police.
While those from Customs and the Immigration were said to be in uniforms , others were in mufti .
When contacted , the spokesperson for the DSS, Mr Peter Afunanya, said he was not aware of the raid .
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“ You are the one informing me now, I ’ m not aware , ” he said .
However , authoritative sources at the airport told our correspondents that the action of the security agents was not out of place.
A source said though the operatives were not directed to go after Atiku , they might have done so based on their personal initiative .
He said , “ The operatives were looking for foreign currencies and ammunition . There had been reports of several meetings and planning for elections and all that .
“ Don ’ t forget that he ( Atiku ) came in with a private jet . There is no way such a plane would just be allowed to land like that while the luggage would also be taken away without check .
“ But we must agree that the operatives were not very professional in their actions . ”
The source added that the plane would have also been searched by special security forces at the “ other end when it took off . ”
“ So, there is no way we won ’ t also ask our people to check such plane , especially now that we are entering a critical period of election , ” he added.
PDP alleges tampering with Atiku ’ s gadgets , documents
The Peoples Democratic Party and a former Minister of Aviation , Femi Fani – Kayode , on Sunday criticised the Federal Government and its security agencies over what they called the physical harassment of the party ’ s presidential candidate .
The PDP , in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary , Kola Ologbondiyan , claimed that a special security squad of army , police and paramilitary agencies was unleashed on Atiku .
Ologbondiyan claimed the security agents , acting on “ orders from above , ” attempted to manhandle Atiku physically before invading his aircraft.
He claimed that while they could not find incriminating items on him , they tampered with some of his gadgets and personal documents , including his campaign materials .
The statement read , “ 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 . ”
Ologbondiyan claimed that Atiku currently had the highest number of supporters and volunteers nationwide .
He said the PDP would not hesitate to call the supporters and volunteers out in defence of democracy if another such attempt was made against its candidate .
Saying Nigeria is not a conquered territory , the party ’ s spokesman warned that anybody striving to foist a totalitarian regime on the nation would be firmly resisted .
“ 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 .
Fani – Kayode , in his reaction , described the security agents’ action as shameful .
The former minister said the action was a desperate act of a dying government.
“ The attempt to intimidate VP Atiku Abubakar with security agents at the airport after his arrival in Abuja this (Sunday ) morning is utterly shameful and I totally condemn it .
“ It is the desperate act of a vicious , cowardly , weak, paranoid, dying and failed government who know that their time is over , ” he said .