The Federal Government may have ordered security agencies to begin search of private jets and their passengers as the 2019 campaigns and other electioneering activities begin.
It was learnt that security agencies including the operatives of the Department of State Services, Immigration, Customs and the Special Task Force on Currency at the nation’s airports and private terminals would soon begin to search every private jet and their occupants before departures and after arrivals.
Multiple security sources at the Lagos and Abuja airports confirmed the development.
They were told that as the 2019 elections were drawing near, intelligence reports had shown that politicians might be trying to move funds both in local and foreign currencies via their private jets or hired planes to prosecute the campaigns and elections.
They said the development informed the decision to search the private jet of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, at the Abuja airport last Sunday shortly after his arrival from Dubai where he had gone for vacation.
It was, however, learnt that the decision to search Atiku’s jet was a specific order from the Federal Government, even though the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, claimed it was a routine search usually conducted on all arriving passengers.
“Even though it is within our laws that security agencies can search private jets and their occupants, security agencies have not been doing this. It may be because there were no threats in the past. What I can say is that the search of Atiku’s jet is political because it is not the usual practice; the chief executive officer of an Abuja-based charter flight operator told newsmen under condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the aviation industry regulator, Capt Muktar Usman, has said the Federal Government will beam its searchlight on all private jet terminals and private jet flights as campaigns towards the 2019 elections begin.
He said every election season was usually characterised with increased level of activities in the private and charter jet segment of the aviation sector and the agency would ensure no infraction is committed by any politician, party or charter operator.
Usman said, “We are all aware that as we are approaching the election season, there would be more movements in the private and charter flights segment. We are aware there are more movements, so the monitoring should be more. We are taking all those things into consideration. It’s part of our own oversight responsibility and we are taking things very seriously. So, we are monitoring to ensure that standards are met and adhered to.”