A Kogi State senator, Dino Melaye, outwitted a well-armed contingent of anti-robbery police officers during an attempt to arrest him in Abuja on Thursday.
Mr. Melaye, representing Kogi West Senatorial District, manoeuvred himself out of the premises of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama Thursday night, circumventing over a dozen officers from police Special Anti-Robbery Squad who were deployed to the location to arrest him.
The stand-off began on Thursday afternoon when was for allegedly providing false information to homicide detectives in an attempt to implicate his political rivals in Kogi State.
Mr. Melaye drew a mixture of empathy and scorn when telling reporters he was the target of an assassination plot allegedly sponsored by Edward Onoja, the chief of Staff to Governor Yahaya Bello, and other officials in the state. This including a local government chairman— based on the account of the incident provided by Mr. Melaye. Mr. Onoja was not arrested at the time, but he was reported to have been investigated over the matter.
But things became complicated for Mr. Melaye when an audio emerged of a phone conversation in which the senator could be heard allegedly telling Mohammed Audu, a son of the late Kogi politician, Abubakar Audu, how he falsely incriminated Mr. Onoja and others in the purported attempt to assassinate him.
After examining the recorded phone conversation, following a petition by Mr. Onoja, the police charged Mr. Melaye for perjury.
However, the police did not drop charges against the six suspects arrested based on Mr. Melaye’s complaints days after the alleged incident. This is believed to be because Mr. Melaye allegedly mentioned only Mr. Onoja by name as the person he fabricated allegations against.
At the opening of the hearing in the police’s case against Mr. Melaye Thursday, the senator pleaded not guilty to two counts of perjury.
At about 1:00 p.m., he was granted a N100,000 bail afterwards, which included terms that he must provide two sureties of note.
But while Mr. Melaye was trying to perfect the conditions before going home as the judge had ruled before adjourning the case to March 16, the senator and his supporters noticed some “strange movements” outside the court, according to witnesses accounts to PREMIUM TIMES.
The strange sightings included three police trucks and a Toyota Sienna minivan. All were packed with policemen in SARS gears.
Upon enquiries, Mr. Melaye learnt that the officers came for him. He then decided to hold himself inside the court building to avoid being arrested.
Customarily, a suspect who has been granted bail by a court and met the conditions cannot be re-arrested within the court premises by security personnel unless there’s a valid warrant of arrest for the suspect, according to two different legal analysts contacted by PREMIUM TIMES Thursday night.
Mr. Melaye was trying to avoid the fate of Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister for aviation whom EFCC officers picked up inside the premises of the Federal High Court in Lagos minutes after being granted bail by a judge in an ongoing corruption trial.
The anti-graft agency argued at the time that there was a valid warrant for the rearrest of Mr. Fani-Kayode, a fierce critic of the Buhari administration.
After waiting for several hours inside the court, during which he took time out to post tweets accusing Mr. Bello of being behind his ordeal, Mr. Melaye’s breakthrough finally came around 7:54 p.m.
While the court building was still surrounded by SARS officers, Mr. Melaye managed to sneak out to a waiting sports utility vehicle about 150 metres from where he was trapped.
How the senator was able to do remained unclear not only to police officers but to a battery of reporters lurking around the ornamental trees which lie towards the eastern corridor of the court.