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CANAN Condemns the Detention & Harassment of its Trustee, Dr. Ezekwesili, Yesterday at Nigeria Airport, Commends British Airways

Contact: Pastor Laolu Akande, Executive Director, CANAN, 516-819-4355, Laolu@cananusa.org

NEW YORK, July 22, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN wishes to clarify the situation surrounding the detention and harassment of one of our trustees, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday, July 21 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on her way to London to be a guest on popular BBC Hard Talk program.

In doing so, we want to humbly and sincerely request the Nigerian Presidency to call to order those airport security officials involved in this unnecessary harassment of a patriotic Nigerian who has served both the nation and the world creditably as a public official.

It is puerile for government spokespersons, including those from the National Orientation Agency, NOA to try to mischievously focus on the person of Dr. Ezekwesili, seeking to indict her unassailable credibility, while also insulting the intelligence of Nigerians at home and abroad regarding what exactly took place at the airport.

We want to assert very clearly, that by deciding to use her voice and time to champion the causes of the abducted Chibok girls, their parents, relatives and indeed all victims of terrorism in Nigeria, CANAN's trustee and the former federal minister deserves the commendation of all people of goodwill. We do not want to use this occasion to detail the illustrious contribution of Ezekwesili to the welfare of the victims of terror, that is very glaring and the world can see.

It is the attempt to politicize her zeal by some in official and political circles that is truly worrying, but a poor reflection on the purveyors of same. Effort to throw political tantrums and cast aspersion on her altruistic activism is a waste of government time and public resources. There is no offense in having a former federal minister defending and standing up for the very concept of democratic expression. It is indeed a welcome development for Nigeria's nascent democracy.

We therefore reject the misleading reports so far from at least two government agencies regarding what happened at the airport and we produce here for the world to see and judge, the sequence of events that led to Dr. Ezekwesili entering the British Airport, BA, plane only a few minutes before departure.

CANAN also commends British Airways for holding the flight for the leader of the #bringbackourgirls global movement.

Below is the narration of the sequence of the events at the airport by CANAN Trustee Ezekwesili:

    I arrived the airport yesterday on to travel to London on BA.

    First after the luggage screening section, I moved to the customs people sitting right next to it and do a more thorough bag search.

    Rather than they handling my luggage as is the practice, there were three SSS men who rudely took over before they could do so and ordered me to open my bag.

    I was traveling light with just my hand luggage leather roll on and my computer bag. I placed the bag for them and one was already furiously frisking through it when the customs advised that a woman be allowed to do it. She was allowed and she did it.

    She finished, zipped up the luggage and they said I could proceed but I asked that the computer bag be also searched and they did.

    I went on to do my checking and got my boarding pass and was swiftly done.

    I arrived at the departure immigration desk @ about 7:15 and presented my passport and forms. The immigration staff did his processing and handed the items to the SSS official.

    Usually their entire process lasts no more than 5 -10 minutes on a passport. As a frequent traveler through our Lagos and Abuja airports I speak based on experience and evidence. Even on the same day the process for those of the travelers that I witnessed did not last more than 5 minutes.

    But on Monday, it became, 5, 10, 15 and 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 minutes for the departure desk's processing for me, with no explanation given except "We act under instruction."

    At each point after 10 minutes of waiting I asked the officer why my passport was taking so long and not being handed to me. His recurrent response was "We act under instruction." I would go on and state that he owed me an explanation on what was wrong since there seemed to be a different process from the typical and that he had no right to trample on my constitutional right to movement.

    He would respond, "I am not doing this personally madam. I am simply acting based on instruction and you of all persons should understand that."

    When it was 20 minutes into the process, and with BA announcing the final boarding call for the 8am flight, the officer walked out of the cubicle heading off. I followed him asking where he was going without giving back my passport nor an explanation on why it was being withheld. His nonchalant response was "just wait. I am trying to help you."

    It became evident that they withheld the passport to detain me at their departure desk in order to miss the flight.

    That was when I tweeted @ 7:37
    @obyezeks: IS THIS A DEMOCRACY? I am being detained by the SSS @ Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport . The SSS has REFUSED to GIVE MY PASSPORT TO ME.

    At 7.41
    @obyezeks: On my way to London this morning for my @BBCHARD talk appearance billed for TOMORROW and the SSS has DETAINED me by WITHHOLDING my PASSPORT.

    While I stood with him demanding my passport, we were joined by two of the fellows that had instructed the search of my bags, they reappeared and one of them instructed the younger to handover the passport to me. He hesitated glaring down at me. His colleague raised his voice and instructed him again and he refused.

    At that point, I brought out my phone to record him even as I asked for the passport. He got angry and charged at me that he would seize my phone.

    Then his colleague screamed at him a third time to hand the passport. He did.

    I tweeted :
    @obyezeks: SSS has RELEASED IT. Just barely made the BA flight. Last to board @ 7:55 for an 8:00 am flight that is now taxiing. IS THIS A DEMOCRACY?

    8:04 am
    @obyezeks: No ONE can SEIZE my DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS. I REFUSED to let the SSS GET AWAY with TRAMPLING on my CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.

    So Strangely, my passport had all the while been seized away from the processing cubicle and was not with the officer at the desk at the time he was saying "We are acting under instruction."

    Immigration, Customs, airport staff and travelers (including Prof. Jerry Gana) who witnessed the sad episode were at various times intervening while it lasted.

    BA was kind in that it not only waited beyond their normal departure time to take me on board, but they also upgraded my class of travel following the unjustified harrowing experience with our SSS.