Over 24 hours after operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad were deployed to lay a siege to an Abuja court in a botched attempt to arrest Dino Melaye, the Force Headquarters has failed to offer any explanation for the move.
The police drafted a contingent of well-armed police officers to apprehend Mr. Melaye at the Maitama Division of the High Court of Federal Capital Territory Thursday, shortly after the Kogi State senator was granted bail in an unrelated perjury case.
Mr. Melaye was arraigned by the police on allegations that he provided false information to investigators in an attempt to indict a senior official of Kogi State government. He was granted a N100,000 bail with two sureties.
But as he was trying to complete his paperwork to meet his bail conditions, officers started surrounding the court building around 1:00 p.m.
Mr. Melaye immediately stayed behind inside the court after learning that the SARS operatives were looking for him. Three of the officers later confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that they were sent to arrest Mr. Melaye.
The stand-off lasted until 7:54 p.m. when Mr. Melaye slipped out of the court and drove away in a waiting vehicle. All this happened while the officers were outside completely unaware that their target had since departed the scene.
The police did not say why the officers were sent after Mr. Melaye.
Gideon Ayodele, the senator’s spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES his principal didn’t do anything wrong to warrant the arrest, accusing Governor Yahaya Bello, his political rival, of being behind it.
Gbenga Olorunpomi, a spokesperson for the governor, absolved his principal of any involvement in the siege.
First, Sadiq Bello, Abuja police commissioner, distanced his command from the botched arrests, saying his men were not involved at all.
William Aya, a spokesperson for Kogi police command, said he was not even aware of the attempted arrest.
“I have not heard about it,” he said. He also told PREMIUM TIMES that he was not aware of any pending case against Mr. Melaye other than the perjury case that was heard in court yesterday.
In Abuja, the force public relations head, Jimoh Moshood, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES telephone calls and text messages seeking his comments about the matter.
Yet, PREMIUM TIMES learnt from police sources Friday that Mr. Melaye was being sought for holding a political rally without informing the police and which eventually turned fatal.
The event, which held outside the Kogi State Polytechnic in Lokoja on July 12, 2017, turned deadly after it was reportedly hijacked by thugs. At least two persons were reportedly killed in the attack.
Mr. Melaye alleged that he was targeted by thugs sent by Mr. Bello, but the governor denied the allegations, blaming Mr. Melaye for holding the rally with intent to foment chaos to the state.
The senator held the event to reassert his popularity amongst the state’s electorate and beat back an attempt to recall him from the Senate at the time.
Police sources told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Melaye failed to inform the police in the state ahead of the rally for proper police protection of the venue.
After several attempts to get Mr. Melaye to give a statement to homicide detectives investigating the death of two persons at the rally failed, the police approached the Senate to report one of its members, a source told PREMIUM TIMES.
But the senator allegedly frustrated all attempts by the police to question him over the violence that broke out at his rally.
Mr. Ayodele, however, disputed this accounts to PREMIUM TIMES Friday afternoon, saying his principal informed the police of the rally and a deputy police commissioner was present at the rally with two trucks filled with police officers.
“The police knew that the rally would hold and they were present to provide security.” Mr. Ayodele said. “This is just another attempt to victimise” Mr. Melaye, but “they only have power and guns while we have God.”