Adelani Adepegba and Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
Armed riot policemen on Monday laid siege to Shanga Street, Maitama, Abuja residence of Senator Dino Melaye to arrest him.
The security operatives blocked one end of the street with a Toyota Hiace bus with tinted glasses and Abuja number plate, RSH 193 TP, and a pick-up at the other end.
They also prevented persons in the building from going out, but later allowed family members, friends and guests to enter and exit the premises.
Melaye had, in a hushed tone on the telephone, told one of our correspondents about the police siege at 1.43pm.
Immigration officers had earlier in the day arrested, detained and attempted to seize the passport of the senator at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja on his way to Morocco.
The operatives claimed that they were acting on the advice from the police, which had asked them to detain the Senator who is representing Kogi West at the Senate.
In an interview with The PUNCH while at the airport, Melaye said he was on an official trip to Morocco along with some senators.
He said, “The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and I, as well as other senators, were to be on an official trip to Morocco but while some went through the Lagos airport today (Monday), others are to depart tomorrow (Tuesday).
“As soon as I got to this airport, I was checked in and was already at the lounge waiting for departure when immigration officers invited me that there was a directive from the police that I can’t travel; that I am on their watch list.
“I said it was not true; that the INTERPOL said it did not issue any alert against me. I opened INTERPOL’s website and showed them the denial, but the immigration officers insisted that it was based on the directive from the police.
“I was asked to come down and told to go to their office (at the airport). They took my passport, but I snatched my thing back from them. I am still here with them. They told me that they were waiting for further instructions from the police,” he said.
Melaye was said to have ‘escaped’ from the airport in a curious manner, causing no fewer than 30 policemen to invade Shanga Street, where his house was located.
About 10 additional policemen were deployed in the house around 4.30pm.
Not long after their arrival, about eight Volkswagen Golf cabs loaded with men and women arrived at Melaye’s mansion, to protest against the police presence.
The people, who were later identified as Internally Displaced Persons from Kuchingoro Camp, Abuja, sat down in front of the embattled lawmaker’s mansion while railing against the police move to arrest Melaye.
After some minutes, another group of women and children arrived on the street.
The children could be heard chanting “Sai Dino” as they marched in front of the building.
The leader of the IDPs, Philemon Emmanuel, said he would not allow the policemen to arrest Melaye, whom he described as a philanthropist.
“He gave us foodstuffs and sent our children to school. That is why we came here; we will not allow anything to happen to Senator Dino Melaye. We want them (authorities) to allow him to move freely. He has been helping the IDPs and we want the government not to restrict his freedom of movement,” he said.
A young man handed over some bags of sachet water to the protesters who sat on the tarmac while criticising the police.
No fewer than five senators and members of the civil society organisations visited Melaye’s residence.
The lawmakers are the Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda; Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi; Senator Aidoko Ali, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim and Senator Isa Misau.
The senators interacted privately with leader of the police team.
After the interaction, Olujimi said, “I came to check on him, only to find out that the place has been barricaded. I am going to make enquiries and see what is going on. I asked them what happened and they said they have the instruction to come here.”
Aduda also said, “As a principal officer, I have come here to see what is happening here with a view to reporting back to the presiding officers and the body of principal officers on what I have discovered and seen.
“I will report appropriately what I saw. But I don’t think this should have happened.”
The policemen were still at the senator’s residence as of 8pm when The PUNCHleft the area.
The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Adeniran Aremu, said the lawmaker was indicted for possession of illegal firearms and had refused to honour police summons over the alleged crime.
“We have invited him twice, but he refused to honour our summonses, that is why we have sent our men to arrest him. They are at his residence and they will not leave until they have apprehended him,” he said.
The police had alleged that Melaye contracted one Kabiru Seidu and his gang as political thugs, adding that the lawmaker met with the suspect on Airport Road, Abuja, inside his car in December 2017 and gave him a bag containing an AK-47 rifle, two pump action guns and N430,000 to share with his boys.
Reacting to the siege, the Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights expressed concern over the freedom and safety of Melaye, in a statement issued by its Executive Director, Mr. Frank Tietie.
Tietie said CASER recognised Melaye as “one of the only few persons in authority in Nigeria who have distinguished themselves by constantly and consistently speaking truth to power on behalf of the Nigerian people.”
He recalled that Melaye had recently, with boldness, denounced the seemingly intractable state of insecurity in Nigeria and had challenged the President Buhariadministration to arrest the situation or consider calling the international community to provide security for Nigerians.
The statement by the group read in part, “CASER views the desperate moves by the authorities to arrest and take Senator Melaye to Kogi State, either for trial at the Federal High Court or for questioning, as a ploy to exterminate the irrepressible voice of the masses in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“CASER is worried that if a distinguished Senator can be so harassed to the point of being deprived of his fundamental human rights to life, liberty, freedom of movement and freedom of expression, wherein lies the hope for the ordinary citizens to enjoy their rights?
“CASER hereby calls on the Nigerian Senate to abort its Tuesday sitting in solidarity with the Nigerian people and Senator Dino Melaye.
“Until his fundamental rights are recognised and enforced by the Nigeria Police who must immediately stop the siege on his house, the Senate should no longer sit to conduct legislative business.”
Police arrest my brother, withdraw police orderlies –Melaye
Melaye, in a series of tweets on his twitter handle on Monday evening alleged that the police had arrested his brother, Moses, and his friend.
He said they were arrested in front of his house.
The senator also alleged that his police orderlies had been withdrawn, adding that there was a plan to kill him.
The tweets read, “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.
“We are in a civil society. No warrant and 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 cannot be silenced.”