Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja and James Emejo in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara has asked the police to prioritise the health and safety of Sen. Dino Melaye before prosecution.
Dogara made the call at the plenary thursday in Abuja after Hon. Sunday Karimi (Kogi PDP) drew the attention of the House to the embattled senatorâ€™s plight.
The senator is facing a seven-count charge of criminal conspiracy and unlawful possession of firearms in Kogi State.
He was arraigned yesterday at a Senior Magistrateâ€™s Court in Lokoja, Kogi State, but was refused bail by the court, which ordered that he remanded in police custody till June 11.
Karimi said in the process of arresting and transporting Melaye from Abuja to Lokoja by the police, the lawmaker was involved in an accident and was hospitalised.
He said that he counted no fewer than 36 policemen guarding the hospital where Melaye was receiving treatment, adding that the senator was yet to fully recover, but was being tried while still on stretcher.
According to him, Melaye was being persecuted for his political beliefs, warning that was â€œhappening to him could happen to any of usâ€.
â€œI appeal to the House to look at the issue and make sure due process is followed,â€ Karimi said.
Presiding, the speaker said while he felt that anyone who had committed any offence must face the law, he noted that had not seen any country where anybody had been arraigned in court on a stretcher.
â€œI have not seen in any country where someone is arraigned in court on stretchers when he or she is not fit to plead guilty or not guilty.
â€œIf anything happens to him (Melaye), the responsibility will be on the security agency,â€ he said.
He called on the police to ensure the safety of Melayeâ€™s health and life, adding that it would be most unfortunate if something happened to him.
Meanwhile, the Senior Magistrateâ€™s Court 11 sitting in Lokoja, thursday ordered that the embattled Kogi senator and two others be remanded in police custody till June 11.
Melaye was arraigned before the court alongside two other suspects â€“ Kabiru Saidu, aka Osama, and Nuhu Salisu, aka Small â€“ who had indicted him for gun running.
The senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District was moved from Abuja to Lokoja at about 7 a.m. yesterday and was taken to the office of the Special Anti Robbery Squared (SARS) in Lokoja.
Melaye, who was brought to the court in an mbulance with over 50 policemen at about 9.15 a.m. was on stretcher and covered with a blanket.
On his arrival, heavily armed policemen took positions within and around the court premises and prevented people including journalists from entering the court, apart from the lawyers representing Melaye and the prosecution.
When the charge sheet was read, the prosecution counsel, Alex Izinyon (SAN), while citing the relevant laws, said the allegations levelled against the accused persons were too weighty and not ordinarily bailable.
He therefore prayed the court to remand Melaye in prison custody while the two accused persons who implicated Melaye, be remanded in police custody.
However, counsel to Melaye, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) objected to the prayer of the prosecution and swiftly moved for Melayeâ€™s bail citing Section 97(2) of the Penal Code and Section 56 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
He also presented two medical reports from the National Hospital where Melaye had been admitted after his alleged attempt to escape from police custody last week.
Ozekhome said the medical reports showed that Melaye was bedridden owing to a spinal chord injury he had sustained, arguing that he could not jump bail.
Ozekhome further contended that that as a vocal Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Melaye cannot have jumped bail.
The defendantâ€™s counsel also pleaded with the trial judge to consider the bail application, saying that his client had in police custody since April 24 and was released on bail on Wednesday by an Abuja Magistrateâ€™s Court only to be rearrested by the police. He held that his client should be prosecuted, not persecuted.
However, Izinyon swiftly objected to the bail application, saying Melaye had earlier escaped from lawful police custody and that for the counsel to say he was a vocal senator â€œmeans he is influential and can move and unmoved anythingâ€.
As the argument ensued, there was some mild drama when Melaye who was on the stretcher suddenly woke up and looked around the courtroom.
Some minutes later, the doctor who led other medical team to the court rushed to him and supplied him with an inhaler.
The trial magistrate, Suleiman Abdullah, while giving his ruling, said the court had listened carefully to the submissions of both counsel and concluded that the case was not bailable.
He therefore ordered that all the three accused persons be remanded in police custody while Melaye should be allowed access to his medication, and adjourned the case till June 11 for mention.