The ongoing drama between the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), at the National Assembly, Dino Melaye and the Nigerian Police took a new dimension on Tuesday when Melaye allegedly jumped from a moving police vehicle conveying him from Abuja to Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State to answer questions on his alleged connection to a murder case among other allegations.
Senator Melaye was scheduled to be arraigned today in Kogi state on charges bordering on allegations that he supplied arms to some murder suspects in his home state.
Reports before his jump indicated that the police were taking him to Lokoja to parade him alongside previously arrested suspects who have allegedly confessed to being supported by Senator Melaye.
The senator had earlier been declared wanted by the police over an allegation that he refused to heed the invitation of the Kogi State Police Command to answer questions about his alleged involvement which Melaye described as a political manoeuvre against him.
Melaye was on Monday prevented from travelling out of the country for an official assignment to Morocco by the operatives of the Nigeria Immigration Service on orders from INTERPOL and had allegedly refused to surrender to a team of police officers who went to his home on Monday afternoon to arrest him on the ground that he had not committed any crime and was afraid for his life.
He had claimed that the officers would take him to Kogi where his security cannot be guaranteed but he, however, submitted himself to the police outside his Maitama home in Abuja on Tuesday morning following intervention from his colleagues and bringing the day-long siege to an end.
Melaye was taken said to the special anti-robbery squad office in Guzape, Abuja and detained in a SARS detention facility located opposite the old Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN junction along the Area 1 expressway, Abuja, where he was moved out around noon on Tuesday in police vehicle heavily manned by SARS operatives for the trip to Lokoja.
But on the way, he was said to have jumped out of the moving vehicle and police operatives were said to have also jumped in pursuit. But the senator was not as lucky to escape as he got wounded and had to be taken to Zanklin Medical Centre in Utako District in Abuja where he is presently on admission.
Though medical reports indicate that Melaye is not in a critical condition, he is suspected to be suffering from a broken vertebra. He was said to have been handcuffed to avoid such an incident before he was taken to the waiting vehicle.
There are allegations that the police forcefully carried out Melaye’s arrest without a warrant of arrest or court order in the early hours of Tuesday after initial attempts to arrest him at the airport after immigration officials disembarked him from a flight bound for Morocco failed on Monday morning.
The accident puts a stop to the alleged plan by the police to parade and further arraign him before a Kogi state Magistrate court sitting in Lokoja magistrate over allegations bordering on illegal possession of firearms.
Many people were already on the ground waiting for Melaye’s arrival at the police headquarters in Lokoja but their wait yielded no fruit as the police failed to bring the lawmaker as expected.
The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Aremu Adeniran, who first spoke on the issue on Tuesday said that Melaye had submitted himself to the police and would be arraigned later, adding that the Senator had ignored series of invitations to answer to criminal offences of conspiracy and unlawful possession of prohibited firearms levelled against him.
“Melaye surrendered himself to the Police after series of dodging following the indictment on him by two suspects, Kabiru Saidu a.k.a. Osama and Nuhu Ahmed who named him as their sponsors and suppliers of guns for armed robbery, kidnapping and political thuggery.
“Sequel to his refusal to honour police invitations, he was watchlisted through the Nigeria Police INTERPOL Office and in compliance to the INTERPOL’s Watch List, the officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service intercepted and collected his International Passport from him at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja. While this was on, he snatched the passport from the officers at the Airport and bolted to his house.
“In furtherance of this, the Police obtained a warrant of arrest and trailed him to his house at Maitama, Abuja and cordoned off the place. Police exercise restraints from undue provocation from some Internally Displaced Persons mobilized by the Senator numbering over 200, mostly youths, pregnant women and children. They barricaded the road leading to his house with wood and heavy stones and restricted access. He, however, surrendered himself to the police this morning (yesterday) 24, April 2018 for investigation on the allegations against him,” he said.
There are however reports that the Magistrate court where Melaye was to be arraigned today (Wednesday) only got the notification about the scheduled arraignment.
In another report, the Nigeria Police Force was alleged to have sent at least 30 armed operatives to Zankili Medical Center, where Melaye is being treated following his failed attempt to escape from being taken to Lokoja by the police. The presence of the heavily armed men allegedly created tension in the hospital as the policemen were said to have arrested two members of staff; a man and a woman for an unknown offence.
People seen walking around the clinic had to identify themselves to avoid being arrested and the road leading to the hospital was allegedly barricaded by the gun-wielding security operatives who were said to be trying to locate Melaye.
The drama continues with diverse reports emanating from different quarters; there is a report that thugs rescued Melaye from the police after his jump as he was said to be screaming that they were going to kill him.
Another report stated that the police had told Melaye after his arrest that he would be taken to court in the afternoon but on the way, a struggle ensued between the police and Dino who was said to have resisted attempts to divert the vehicle and had raised alarm in order to attract the attention of passersby.
One of the passersby, Peter Babayemi, stated that their attention was drawn to the lawmaker’s plea for help and the SARS vehicle was surrounded, adding that the police abandoned Senator Melaye and drove off to avoid the attracted attention
“What happened was that we were at the area one roundabout when we saw the police vehicle carrying someone. We saw the person struggling and shouting. So many people now gathered to see what was happening. When we looked, we saw that it was Dino Melaye. Immediately, we started shouting and it attracted the people. That was how we rescued him from them and they drove away when people became aware,” he said.
Another report indicates that Melaye was not arrested but drove to the office of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) in Abuja to submit himself on Tuesday morning in line with his promise to make himself available to the police.
Based on conflicting reports, the location of Senator Melaye remains shrouded in uncertainties as no one seems to know the exact situation. One of his staff identified as Ayodele said the police planned to take him to Kogi where he has been undergoing criminal investigation but the senator declined.
“They told us they wanted to take him to court here in Abuja but they diverted towards Kogi but he has said he will not go to Kogi and there is currently a stalemate over that,” Ayodele stated, adding that dragging his principal to Kogi would be illegal because the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court had recently ruled that his case should be transferred to Abuja.
The case against Melaye which borders on allegedly arming deadly criminal gangs and convening a political rally that ended with the death of at least one attendee followed the alleged confession of suspects who claim he provided them with arms and financial support as well as allegations that he provided false statements to the police that implicated the Chief of Staff to the Kogi state governor in an alleged attempt to assassinate him last year
The Police had earlier given Senator Melaye up till today to appear before a Federal High Court, Lokoja, to answer charges of criminal acts levelled against him, saying violation would leave it with no option than to issue the warrant of arrest against him.
The police authorities said Melaye has a case to answer in the allegation against him by a wanted kidnap, armed robbery and kidnap kingpin, otherwise known as Osama, who in a confession following his arrest, implicated him of being responsible for their actions.
The police had stated that if Melaye continues to be evasive and fails to comply with the criminal summon issued on him to answer criminal charges, the force will declare him wanted throughout the country.
There have been diverse reactions trailing the Tuesday incident. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has decried what it described as the relentless assault by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Federal Executive against the institution of the National Assembly, particularly, the Senate.
PDP in a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, its National Publicity Secretary, in Abuja said Nigerians have noted how the leadership of the Senate and elected senators of the Federal Republic are being harassed, arrested, detained and even arraigned on trumped-up charges for holding opinion divergent to that of the executive arm.
The party observed further that since the emergence of the current leadership of the Senate outside the preference of the APC and the executive arm, the Senate has been under attack while senators who show support for the leadership are being hounded and harassed by agents of the executive.
According to the opposition party, the world has been watching with horror since it started with the arraignment of Senate President Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and other senators on trumped-up charges as well as attempts to rope in the Deputy Senate President on charges related to treason.
“Today, we are witnessing the harassment and arrest of Senator Dino Melaye, who is known for his support for the Senate leadership and his criticisms of the excesses of the executive arm. Currently, Senators Aliyu Wamakko, Rabiu Kwakwanso and Danjuma Goje are all being harassed for holding opinions that do not suit the whims and caprices of the executive.
“Only last week, the security architecture in the National Assembly was compromised, paving the way for the invasion of the Senate chambers by strangers who disrupted proceedings, harassed and threatened our lawmakers and forcefully took away the mace.We know that the unrelenting assault is aimed at silencing strong dissenting voices, emasculate the legislature and prevent it from playing its constitutional duties of checking the excesses and impunity of the executive arm,” PDP said.
The party urged Nigerians to look beyond partisan sentiments and join in condemning the attack on the institution of the legislature, without which we cannot be a democratic nation and appealed to lawmakers not to allow their spirits to be broken or buckle to intimidation.
“They must continue in the pursuit of their oath of office and allegiance and in their onerous goal of making laws for the good governance of our nation,” the party declared.