•How medical doctors, patients, others were arrested at hospital, taken into detention
•BBC staff also picked, handcuffed
•Journalists ordered not to bring phones or communication gadgets out of their pockets
By Joseph Erunke
Imagine being handcuffed by the police like a hardened criminal and taken into detention for several hours for treating a patient in a medical facility where you work as a doctor! Your only ‘offence’ against the law enforcement agents is that you attended to a patient! This was the case of some medical doctors at Zankli Hospital Abuja last Tuesday, April 24,2018.
The doctors were in their professional best to save the life of a senator, Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West Senatorial District at the Senate, who was brought into the hospital probably unconscious, following blockade of a police Hilux van conveying him to Lokoja, Kogi State and his subsequent removal by a mob of supporters opposed to the police action.
Besides the two doctors who were arrested, dragged into a waiting vehicle and handcuffed while being moved into detention facilities, patients and their relatives as well as their sympathizers, who were seen sitting outside the hospital premises around 2:35pm when a contingent of police stormed there in over 30 operational vehicles, were not spared. They were all rounded up and forced into some of the vehicles.
Journalists who had converged at the hospital to gather reports after learning that the senator was moved there for treatment, were not spared either. They were forcefully led out with an order not to bring their communication gadgets like mobile phones out of their pockets for recording or be shot by the police personnel led by the FCT Commissioner of Police, Mr Sadiq Bello.
A British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC’s driver, who had conveyed one of their reporters, Miss Dooshima Abu, to the hospital to cover event at the hospital was also picked. It took spirited efforts by journalists who approached the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, for possible intervention before the young man was unchained from seven others and set free. The hospital later confirmed that those arrested within their premises including their doctors had been released.
The unconscious senator who was on drip at the amenity ward of the hospital was forcefully detached, taken into a waiting police ambulance marked NPF 221 D to the National Hospital Abuja around 9:20 pm.
The journey of the senator to the hospital had begun around 7 am earlier in the day, when he turned himself to the operatives of the Nigeria Police, drawn from its Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, who had laid siege to his Maitama, Abuja house after being prevented from traveling to Morocco at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, by men of the Nigerian Immigration Service at the airport.
He was being taken to Lokoja Command of the Nigeria Police Force but the police plan was foiled by some people, possibly the senator’s supporters and some passers-by who were drawn to the shout of the senator struggling against the movement around the Area 1 Round About of the Federal Capital Territory.
Contrary to the claim that Melaye jumped out from a moving vehicle, while being taken to Lokoja, the senator was dragged out of a police Hilux van conveying him to the Kogi State capital, after the people blocked the police team and forcefully took him out of their grip during which he became unconscious in the process. “At the Area One Roundabout, people heard a man in the police vehicle shouting for help. The people were moved at the development and blocked the Police and in the process, forcefully pulled him out of the police vehicle, “Peter Babayemi, one of the passers-by had told newsmen who rushed to the scene of the incident.
According to him, their attention was drawn to the lawmaker’s plea for help, and immediately the SARS vehicle was surrounded by a sea of passers-by. He added that the operatives were overwhelmed by the number of passers-by and abandoned Melaye and drove off to avoid being lynched.
Babayemi said: “What happened was that we were at the Area One roundabout when we saw the SARS vehicle carrying someone. We saw the person struggling and shouting on top of his voice. So, many people now gathered to see what was happening.
Senator Dino Meleye : Policemen barricaded Senator Dino Meleye House at Maitama
When we looked close, we saw it was Dino Melaye. “Immediately, we started shouting that we know this man. Since some of us had read the news about what was happening to him, we said we won’t allow them take him anywhere. That was how we rescued him from them and they drove away when people became too many.”
The police team who had abandoned Melaye in the hands of the crowd later got wind of his whereabouts .
Journalists rushed immediately to the Zankli Hospital, at the Mabuchi District of the FCT, where he was taken to.
It was at this point that the police team got wind of the development and stormed there in a commando style, and started arresting anyone on sight.
The several truckloads of stern-looking policemen barricaded the hospital’s entrance. The Police men drawn from the FCT Command flooded the premises, and conducted intensive search on vehicles entering and making their exit from the hospital.
The insistence of the police authority to have Melaye paraded at its Kogi State Command and subsequent arraignment in court in the state has raised some questions.
Recall that the criminal case instituted by the Nigeria Police against Senator Dino Melaye, Mohammed Audu, and two others has been transferred out of the Lokoja Federal High Court Division to the Abuja division of the court following Melaye’s application and alarm that his life was not safe in Kogi.
Recall also that when the case came up for mentioning last Thursday, the Prosecuting Counsel, G.O Ojo said he was ready to move the exparte motion requesting that the case be brought forward from the initial May 10 it was slated for.
His argument was premised on the fact that since the two suspects who indicted Dino in gun running, Kabiru Seidu (a.k.a Osama) and Nuhu Salisu (a.k.a Small) who had earlier escaped from police custody have been re-arrested, the case should commence immediately .
However, the presiding judge, Justice Phoebe Ayua had ruled against him, saying that she ought to have been notified of the new development on the case.
What will be the action of the court in the face of the police insistence on having the senator arraigned in court and possibly tried in Kogi State, instead of the Abuja court where his case has been moved to? What is the interest of the police in the having him arraigned in Kogi instead of Abuja? Melaye had alleged that the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello was after his life.
Phone calls to the spokesman of the police to comment on this matter were not answered. There no responses to text messages too.