Former Nigerian vice president and the presidential candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar said he and his staff were intimidated “by agents of the state” after arriving at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.
“I arrived to Abuja this morning to a search by agents of the state, aimed at intimidating me and my staff,” Abubakar tweeted on Sunday afternoon.
Abubakar arrived Abuja airport at 1 am Nigerian time from vacation in Dubai.
He, however, did not state which of the “agents of state” searched him and his staff.
Abubakar, formerly a member of the ruling party, is the main challenger against President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria’s next general election holding in February.
His campaign to get Nigeria “working again” has resonated with a section of Nigerians who are disenchanted by Buhari’s handling of the economy and allegations of corruption against a few of his aides.
Abubakar’s claim of intimidation will be seen by many in Africa’s most populous as an attempt by the government to cow him.
The alleged intimidation came a few days after the ruling All Progressives Congress called for the probation of his strategy meeting organized with some of PDP leaders in Dubai.
“There is more to the meeting that meets the eye. Nigeria has enough meeting/conference rooms, many of which meet international standards,” the deputy spokesman of APC Yekini Nabena said.
“It is therefore clear that the Dubai meeting was for other sinister political purposes ahead of the 2019 general elections.”
“Our intelligence, anti-graft and security agencies must be awake to its responsibility of investigating the Dubai meeting. Cash-and-carry politicians must be prevented from moving illicit cash around to induce voters and sponsor election violence and rigging.”
However, a former All Progressives Congress spokesman Timi Frank, who also confirmed the harassment of the presidential candidate in a statement on Sunday 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, however, warned President Muhammadu Buhari to desist from his act of “intimidation” against the PDP presidential candidate.
“Due to information at our disposal, I have been saying is that the PDP presidential candidate is not saved under this administration because the Buhari’s administration is deploying all manners of devilish strategies to nail all the opposition leaders especially, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar,” Frank said.
“We are using this medium to inform the international community to also take note of how Buhari administration is intimidating the opposition presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who has served Nigeria as Vice President for eight years,” he added.
Meanwhile, 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.”