Damilola Oyedele and Paul Obi in Abuja
It was high drama Monday when officials of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) prevented the embattled senator representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, Dino Melaye, from travelling outside the country, then released him, only for the police and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) to lay siege to his Maitama residence in Abuja.
Melaye, who was travelling to Morocco on an official assignment as part of a delegation which had the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said he was arrested by NIS officials after he had checked in.
The embattled senator, who has been engaged in a running battle with his state governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello, was recently declared wanted by the Nigeria Police after he was accused of supplying firearms to some murder suspects who allegedly implicated him.
He however denied the allegations, which he said were politically motivated.
“I have just been arrested at the international wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport on my way to Morocco for an official engagement sponsored by the federal government after checking in,” Melaye said in a tweet he posted at 7.32 a.m.
The immigration service spokesman, Mr. Sunday James, in a chat with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), confirmed the arrest, saying it was “based on instructions”.
Melaye was however released at about 10 a.m. after the police failed to show up to take him into custody.
His media aide, Mr. Gideon Ayodele, confirmed his release.
“The immigration officials who thought they were trying to help the police when they initially detained him were embarrassed that the police couldn’t take him into custody,” Ayodele said.
But Melaye’s ordeal was far from over after his release, as the police which initially denied involvement in his detention by NIS, laid siege to his Maitama residence.
The senator confirmed this yet again via a Twitter post from his home where he was evading arrest.
“Over 30 heavily armed fierce looking mobile police men have just stormed my residence in Maitama, Abuja. All roads leading to the house have been cordoned off, as heavy mobile policemen blocked entry and exits of the road. They currently laid siege to, in and around the house,” he said.
With their Toyota Hilux vans blocking both ends of the street, the policemen also prevented visitors and even his colleagues from accessing the senator’s home.
Some of the senators who were prevented from gaining entry to Melaye’s home included Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara APC), Atai Aidoko (Kogi APC), Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti PDP), Isa Hamman Misau (Bauchi APC) and Phillip Aduda (FCT PDP).
At 6.40 p.m., more policemen arrived to join their colleagues and were joined by DSS officials after protesters allegedly from the internally displaced persons’ camp around Abuja arrived the area. The protesters bore placards expressing their support for Melaye.
But the police and DSS refused to budge and went ahead to arrest Melaye’s brother Moses and his friend who were outside his residence. The policemen attached to Melaye were also withdrawn.
In a tweet at 9.17 p.m., the lawmaker said there was a fresh plan to frame him. He, however, did not provide details of why he was being framed.
“All my policemen have been taken away with their arms. One CP came and took them away. There is also a plan to set me up again. But in God I trust. Truth will always prevail,” he said.
“My brother Moses and his friend have just been arrested by the police in front of my house.
“We are in a civil society. No warrant and the case is in court, yet this lawlessness. I’m a responsible NIGERIAN and law abiding. There is a plan to kill me and I know about it. We are not in a Banana Republic. I can not be silenced,” his tweets said.
When THISDAY visited Melaye’s residence located at 11 Sangha Street, Off Mississipi Street, Maitama, Abuja, a team of riot policemen had cordoned off both ends of the street.
A Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), who led the police team refused to speak with THISDAY, but directed that the Police Public Relations Officer, ACP Jimoh Moshood, should be contacted.
Women and youths wearing T-shirts with inscriptions such as “I Stand with Dino” were seen at the front of Melaye’s house in solidarity with the Kogi senator.
Eventually, the police said Melaye’s arrest at the airport and siege to his home were as a result of his indictment of unlawful possession of illegal firearms.
Police Deputy Public Relations Officer, DSP Aremu Adeniran, said: “It was because he was indicted in a case of unlawful possession of prohibited firearms and other violent crimes. He was invited by the police but failed to honour it.”
The police and DSS were still at Melaye’s residence at the time of filing this report.