Adelani Adepegba and Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
Tempers flared at the Senate on Wednesday when lawmakers debated the arrest and detention of Senator Dino Melaye by the police over alleged involvement in gun-running.
The Senate, after a debate that lasted over one hour, resolved to step down all the items on the order paper and adjourn plenary.
Several lawmakers, who spoke alleged that policemen prevented them from seeing Melaye at the National Hospital Abuja, where he is undergoing treatment over the injuries he sustained from his alleged attempt to escape on Tuesday when he was being taken to Kogi State.
They, therefore, resolved that the plenary be adjourned to allow the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to lead them to the hospital, alleging that policemen guarding Melaye were preventing them from seeing the senator.
The senators also resolved that the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, be summoned to appear before the lawmakers at the plenary on Thursday (today) over Melaye’s case and the killings by herdsmen and militias across the country.
Saraki said, “Just to re-emphasise the point: tomorrow morning, by 11am, Senator Abu Ibrahim (who is Chairman, Committee on Police Affairs), by the resolution on the motion, the IG should be here to address us in plenary.
“We will take the issue of Senator Dino and we will also use that opportunity to take the recent killings in the last one week, of close to a hundred in the country.
“Clerk, because of the importance of this, please inform your coverage people (Nigerian Television Authority). It should be live tomorrow, to discuss the issue of security in the country.”
While the lawmakers called for a delegation to visit Melaye at the hospital, Saraki informed them that he had earlier in the day sent one led by the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
Briefing the Senate about the visit, Na’Allah said the police and the hospital had not fed Melaye since they arrested him for fear of being implicated.
Na’Allah also said the police and the hospital’s management, however, asked that any volunteer could feed him, provided that such an individual was ready to taste the food before it would be given to Melaye.
The Deputy Majority Leader added that the police had attempted to take Melaye out of the facility but were told that an undertaking must be signed for the lawmaker to be discharged, the reason why he had remained in the hospital.
Na’Allah said, “…Lastly, there was an insistence to remove him from the National Hospital but the management told them that an undertaken must be signed that whatever happens will be on them. That is what is keeping Dino at the National Hospital to date because nobody is willing to sign.”
In his remarks, Saraki said it had shown from the emotions displayed by the senators that the matter “has gone beyond us sending representatives.”
The Senate President said, “Also, because of the importance of this, the issue of the IGP briefing us should be immediate and that should be tomorrow (Thursday).”
Saraki said that he had not been able to reach the IG since 48 hours. He said efforts by him to get the police boss to discuss the security situation in the country had failed.
The debate on Melaye began when Senator Samuel Anyanwu raised a point of order to condemn the police over how Melaye was treated like “a common criminal” by security operatives on Tuesday.
Seconding the motion, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, stated that “coercion cannot work,” stressing that it was not the way things should be done. He called for due process, especially as the matter was already in the court and the court had not issued an arrest warrant against Melaye.
Also, Senator Isa Misau asked why the police were bent on forcefully taking Melaye to Kogi State when the force had alleged that the lawmaker committed the crime in Abuja. He warned that Melaye’s relocation to Kogi might spark protests and violence.
Misau pointed out that if the police had the personnel strength to deploy about a hundred men to guard a person in a hospital, the policemen should be redeployed in Zamfara or Benue “where killings are taking place every day.”
Also speaking, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who stated that she was not in support of what happened to Melaye, said, “If Senators Dino Melaye and Ovie-Omo Agege can be taken away by the police, it destroys the sanctity of this chamber.”
Shortly after the plenary was adjourned, Saraki led some senators to the National Hospital where they first met with a former Speaker of the House of Representatives who is now the Chairman of the Governing Board of the hospital, Mrs Patricia Etteh; and the Chief Medical Director, Dr Jeff Momoh.
Etteh and Momoh later led the lawmakers to the National Trauma Centre within the premises where Melaye was being treated. They spent about 20 minutes in the building, which was manned by about 50 armed policemen.
After the visit, Saraki said, “After the sitting of the Senate today, we decided to come here because for 24 hours we have not heard or known the state of Senator Dino. We are happy that we have seen him. He is under intensive care. He is stable for now. He has not eaten for the past 24 hours. We are trying to resolve that. He is on fluids and he has been seen by a cardiologist and all specialists.”
Asked whether Melaye was handcuffed to his bed as reported, Saraki said, “No, he is not in handcuffs.”
But it was gathered that the police had earlier on Wednesday handcuffed Melaye on his hospital bed at the National Hospital, Abuja, apparently to prevent him from escaping.
The handcuffs were however removed shortly before senators led by the Senate President visited him at the trauma centre of the hospital.
The NAH spokesman, Dr Tayo Haastrup, confirmed on Wednesday that Melaye was still receiving treatment, adding that he could not provide information on his health.
“I didn’t see handcuffs on him when the senators visited him this (Wednesday) afternoon. The doctors are still treating him, so I can’t comment on his health,” Haastrup stated.
The police did not respond to inquiries about the alleged handcuffs on Melaye. The force spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, did not respond to calls and he had yet to reply an SMS seeking his reaction as of the time of filing this report. (Punch)