Spokesman for the Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation, Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN), faults claims by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that his aircraft was recently violently searched .
Was the alleged forceful search of Atiku’s aircraft right?
First of all, the authority that is in charge of all our airports is called the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. If you look at sections 3 and 4 of the Act establishing FAAN, it has given FAAN the general power in ensuring safety in the general operations at the airports, both in passengers and aircraft that are coming and leaving Nigeria. That is why you see that what obtains beyond the airport is not what obtains within the premises of the airport. For instance, outside the airport, unless you are suspected to have committed an offence, you cannot be searched. There is no basis to do that; it’ll be dehumanising. When we come within the airport, we are subjected to a search. They frisk us with machines; they make us pass through machines. It is not because we are suspected to have committed an offence, it is because of the general power of FAAN to ensure safety. That is why there is always a thorough search of both humans and their items. Therefore, all of this talk about humiliating the former vice president by violently searching his aircraft (because that was the phrase they used), is extremely comical. It is comical because in all my life, I have heard about the violent treatment of human beings or animals, but the Peoples Democratic Party has just taught the nation a new phrase. It is called the violent search of inanimate things. That phrase has been coined in its desperation to attract the headlines. You can have a rigorous search; you can have a thorough search; but what is called a violent search? I need to go back to school. I have no idea. It is shocking that a whole party that wants to govern Nigeria will employ such cheap tactics to attract headlines. If there was a violent search, he should report that certain things have been broken or damaged. I dare say that what happened at the airport is one of the series of comedies they planned in Dubai. We thought they were in Dubai planning serious strategies to come and engage us on issues. But what have we seen since they returned from Dubai? Instead of some very serious engaging issues, all we have seen is a launch of a comedy series. What they have just launched is a cartoon series. A violent search of inanimate objects is a cartoon item; it is not an item in the real world. Unfortunately, the main opposition party has turned itself into comedians now. It is regrettable. It appears to me that the Atiku campaign has just ended abruptly before it started. It is clear to all Nigerians now that having sat down in Dubai, having look at the demographics of Nigeria, having seen the acceptability of Buhari in the majority part of the country, they have perhaps known how difficult it will be for them to win this election. So, what they have planned to do is perhaps to go away in a blaze of public sympathy instead of in a blaze of condemnation. They have just lined up a series of events to whip up public sympathy.
It was alleged that the Presidency was behind the search. How do you respond to this?
The agencies of government have powers to carry out certain functions. For example, when there was an attempt to blackmail Atiku Abubakar a few months ago, the security agencies swung into action and arrested the man. Atiku didn’t give credit to the President because it was just an agency of government doing its work. I also didn’t see that the Presidency claimed credit for that swift and decisive arrest of that young man. All Atiku and the PDP said was that the agency just did its job and arrested the young man. So, if that issue that favoured him was not ordered by the Presidency; if it was just an agency doing its work, why would this not be an agency doing its work? I can assure you that the majority of Nigerians are laughing at this episode. When it was reported that there was a storm over Atiku’s violent search, the storm was only in the Wadata Plaza (PDP head office). There was no storm anywhere. Did you see anybody raising any placard? It was a self-induced storm. Is the President or ruling party so daft to think that once you search someone’s plane, the person will now withdraw from the race to the presidency? If there was an intimidation at all, what would be the whole essence of the intimidation?
What is your reaction to the allegation that there was a plan to plant dollars in Atiku’s aircraft?
That is part of the comedy series. I told you it is a comedy series. The part one started with the picture you saw them in while in Dubai sitting as if there was a serious plan going on. They were not doing anything. The second one was the fact that Atiku’s plane was violently searched. Part 3 of the series is to allege that they want to plant dollars on him. On the lighter side, of the two candidates, Nigerians know who keeps dollars and who keeps ‘goro’ in his pockets. If you turn both of them upside down, dollars will fall from one’s pocket and ‘goro’ will fall from the other’s pocket. That is what we call ‘nothing-nothing’ in Warri.
At the airport, almost all agencies of the government that have to do with immigration and emigration are present. Once you pass through the search machine, you’ll see officers of different agencies lining up to search your bags. They have subjected all of us at one time or the other to a routine search. Atiku should be very clear to Nigerians as to what he wants. Does he want to be granted full immunity as not to be searched at all? Let him tell Nigerians. Because if he agrees he is under the authority of the Federal Government to be searched, then he cannot complain when he is searched.
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