‘How I escaped from my abductors and stayed on a tree for 11-hours’
Senator Dino Melaye in a lengthy interview with Premium Times narrated his own version of what he said unfolded along the Abuja-Lokoja Highway which led to his disappearance for almost 24-hours.
The senator confirmed he was not abducted, but that he was not the architect of his ordeal either. He said he was travelling from Abuja to Lokoja for a court appearance on Thursday morning and shortly after passing Gwagwalada, which is roughly 50 kilometres southwest of Abuja, a convoy of three vehicles drove recklessly by his vehicle, intercepting him on the highway and forcing him to stop.
According to him, the assailants tried to open fire to force themselves into the vehicle, only to realise that it was a well-fortified vehicle with bullet-proof. Without much time to waste at the scene, the attackers devised an alternative.
“They started shouting that they wanted to burn me, they said ‘burn him, burn him down,’ and crossed the road to look for tyres to set the vehicle on fire,” Melaye said. As the attackers dispersed in different directions to scavenge for tyres, Melaye said he feared for his life and made instinctive calculation to jump into the bush and bolt, rather than remained in the car in defiance.
“I jumped into the bush, and I started running. They pursued me and I was able to outmanoeuvre them and climb a tree. I was on top of the three when I saw them run past looking frantically for me. When they didn’t find me, they also ran back” he said.
The senator said it was on the tree that he perched until his assailants left. While on the tree, he saw four of them passing, but remained hushed to avoid being detected. He would go on to spend 11 hours trying to ensure that he was no longer at immediate risk from his assailants and navigating his way out of the overgrown weeds.
He also said he could not identify any of them, even if there is an identification parade by authorities, largely because he was more apprehensive of his survival than anything else at that traumatic moment. The senator said he believed those who attempted to attack him were police-sponsored elements. He said when he appeared in court on Wednesday for his attempted suicide trial at the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Apo, he saw some men trailing him after the proceeding.
He described the vehicles the men were driving as two Toyota Hilux trucks and a Toyota Sienna minivan. “They were exactly the same vehicle that were used to attack me on Thursday morning,” he said. He was driving to Lokoja in a vehicle not previously known with him, in a bid to disguise his move to those who were trailing him.
“I was going in a totally different vehicle, but I asked my brother to drive behind me in an SUV as a back-up. But I was shocked to see the attackers run into the middle, creating wall between my brother and I before attacking me” he said.
He added that “to begin with, the federal government and the police in particular have combined five cases against me in court. I have never declined to appear in court for trial in all the five separate cases”.
He said the claim that he was trying to avoid court appearance should immediately ring false to lucid minds, especially since he was in court just a day before. Besides, the court appearance in Lokoja was more about symbolism than substance. This was because he had learnt from his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, that the case would not be heard on Thursday because prosecution lead had already written to notify of his unavoidable absence and seek adjournment.
“Alex Izinyon is the prosecutor and he had written to my lawyer to inform him that he would not be in court on Thursday and that the judge should adjourn the matter. So why would I not want to be in court when I know that nothing would happen to me?” I have been attending all previous court hearings. I have been told that the prosecutor wanted an adjournment. I have been granted bail long ago which I continue to enjoy. So why would I not want to go to court that day? There is no sense in that claim. It is completely against logic,” Melaye said.