By Boluwaji Obahopo
LOKOJA—The battle for the recall of Senator Dino Melaye by his Kogi West constituents turned bloody yesterday, as three persons were confirmed dead and five others injured during a rally in Lokoja, the state capital.
The Senator reportedly gathered students and supporters at the gate of Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja, where he protested his recall, which he said was being sponsored by the state government with N1.2 billion.
Midway into his address, gunshots were heard in the crowd, as some gunmen stormed the venue from the Nataco Junction brandishing guns of different types and cutlasses with everyone scampering for safety.
The Senator’s security men quickly shielded him, as the gun battle reportedly lasted for over an hour between supporters on both sides of the divide.
Taking to his Twitter handle (@dino_melaye) to narrate what had transpired in a series of tweets, the embattled Senator wrote: “Two of my vehicles severally (sic) damaged with gunshots. Told one of the commissioners to Bello and LG caretaker chairman moved one of my cars (sic).”
He accused the troublemakers of being government-sponsored, tweeting “attackers are Government House Police with some criminals accompanied by Lokoja caretaker chairman & one Abdullah Dollar, who is SA Political (sic).
“Just escaped another assassination in Lokoja. Can’t say if anyone died, but two people with gun wound are presently receiving treatment at DSS (sic). “A car was burnt to ashes.
“I cannot be muted. I must continue to speak for the traumatised civil servants and pensioners of Kogi State.”
An hour later, Melaye started tweeting again, thanking the Department of State Services, DSS, for saving his life: “There was serious exchange of gun shots between the DSS, policemen and government assassins. DSS, I thank u for saving my life after God (sic).”
As a follow-up, he also tweeted: “I thank God for my bullet proof car.”
I wasn’t aware of protest—Rector
Speaking, the Rector of the polytechnic, Dr. Isa Muhammed, said he was surprised to see some of his students gathered in front of the school in the morning. On further probing he was told that they were there to receive the Senator.
He said every effort to advise them otherwise fell on deaf ears. He expressed regret that the attack consumed one of his students, Saka Seidu.
He, however, blamed the police for not responding promptly to his distress call before the protest commenced.
Police blame Melaye
The state commissioner for Police, Wilson Inalevu, however, said the Force was not informed about the protest, faulting the senator for not giving them notice before he staged his protest.
He said it was the nearest police division that came to the scene following the message received from the Rector.
Gov Bello reacts
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State blamed Senator Dino Melaye for the violence that claimed the life of Saka Seidu.
The governor made this known in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Petra Akinti Onyegbule.
According to the statement, the violence was stirred by Mr. Melaye in a bid to thwart his constituents’ ongoing attempt to recall him from the Senate.
Bello said Melaye is notorious for violence and advised him to respect his constituents’ freedom to exercise their constitutional rights.
He recalled that his government petitioned the Presidency and the Inspector-General of Police in January on the likelihood of an outbreak of violence, but wondered why no action was taken.
He called on security agencies to ensure that there is no repeat of the incident. He also claimed that despite his efforts at ensuring safety and security in the state, Melaye had continued to orchestrate violence to save his drowning political career.
The governor reiterated his committment to ensuring security of lives and properties in the state.
Bello expressed regret at the turn of events and counselled the people of the state, especially the youths, to avoid being tools in the hands of politicians.
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