Embatted senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District in the upper legislative chamber, Dino Melaye, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is indeed between a rock and a hard place. Despite the criminal allegations leveled against him by the Nigerian Police Force, the controversial lawmaker felt unperturbed.
Prior to the criminal allegations against him, Melaye was facing a recall from his constituency since last year. Finally, the people have spoken by not endorsing the recall. It is, indeed, a victory for democracy.
The electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), deserves commendation for discharging its statutory duties accordingly without intimidations, fear or favour to all the parties involved. The judiciary too needs to be extolled for enabling the INEC proceed with its duties as assigned without hitches.
Election and recall are emphatically exclusive rights of the people. It is immaterial if a recall is orchestrated by propaganda, vendetta or political motives as Melaye contended before the court. What is paramount is that the people must always give the final shot. As they have spoken by distancing themselves from the recall action, that’s final. Thus, kudos to the court, electoral umpire and the people.
Incidentally, whilst the recall attempt was in murky waters due to rigorous processes, the embattled lawmaker yet again was implicated in unhallowed and criminal acts by a gang of two young men caught with guns and who were alleged to be working for the senator for yet to be disclosed assignments.
The Police had severally invited Melaye for interrogations alongside his arraignment in Kogi State to no avail, until his recent arrest. But while being forcefully moved to Kogi, his cronies allegedly ambushed the Police on the way, leading to his attempted escape by jumping out from a moving police vehicle. In the process, Melaye sustained injuries and was later taken to an hospital for traetment.
By and large, apart from the recall action which finally hit the brick wall, penultimate Saturday, Melaye is simultaneously battling with two more serious issues; criminal charges of unlawful possession of arms alongside two others, and escape from lawful custody of the Police.
The recall action, which could have, at most, sacked him from the Senate, failed as the petitioners could not satisfy the 51 per cent constitutional requirement of total registered voters in Kogi West to trigger a recall. This implies that the people didn’t endorse the action or probably changed their minds.
Whatever be the case, the people have spoken. Had all the recall processes succeeded against him, Melaye would still walk home a free man except to lose all entitlements and benefits as a serving senator, thereby only depriving him of the jumbo allowances and other privileges.
However, the two criminal charges against Melaye are punishable by terms of imprisonment under the Criminal Code (Laws of the Federation) which would automatically remove any public office holder from office including a senator, if convicted. If found guilty, the embattled senator will literally be reduced to a convict even if he pays fines, and consequently ruins his political career for a period of 10 years. This is on account that fine on conviction and jail terms are equivalent in law.
Statutorily, a convict is ineligible for election to any position pursuant to Section 66(1) (c) and (d) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. In other words, if convicted and sentenced, the Attorney General of the Federation will expressly approach the court ex parte to delist his name as a senator of the 8th Senate.
By implications, Melaye is in a pinch; still standing between the devil and the deep blue sea, as the criminal case against him, if proven beyond all reasonable doubt in court, may mar him and make him lose his seat in the Senate.
Obviously, Melaye was ill-advised to undertake the disgraceful misadventure of evading arrest. This worsened his case, and bolstered the Police to handcuff a serving senator even on the sick bed like a common criminal. His attempt to escape from police custody is even more disgraceful.
The reason is that as a serving senator, encircled by well-to-do political associates and friends, Melaye could, without any stress, pre-arrange all the likely bail conditions and confidently submit himself for arraignment in the court and secure his bail immediately, since the charges are all bailable offences.
To conclude, Melaye’s dramatic jumping from a moving police vehicle to escape from police custody, irrespective of the motives, is grotesque and ignominious, and leaves much to be desired of a “distinguished senator”.
Above all, if the grievous allegations of involvement, funding and supply of guns to criminals are substantiated, it will confirm the suspicion that politicians are truly responsible for the gruesome and endless killings that have sent countless innocent lives to early graves.
I, therefore, submit that criminalities shouldn’t be trivialized; let the law take its course. Whether a politician is in the ruling party or in the opposition does not matter, especially when the issue at state is a criminal one
Nevertheless, I congratulate Senator Melaye for emerging triumphant in the first hurdle.
Umegboro, public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja.