Interpol speaks on Nigerian police’s arrest warrant for Dino Melaye, others [see here]

Dino Melaye
The International police organisation, Interpol, has given possible reasons why a Nigerian senator declared wanted by the Nigerian police has not been publicly placed on its watch list, saying it does not engage in politically-motivated operations.

The Nigerian police on March 28 declared Dino Melaye, a member of the All Progressives Congress representing Kogi East Senatorial District, and seven others wanted; on allegations of criminal conspiracy. The police also said Interpol had been alerted to place Mr. Melaye and other suspects, including Mohammed Audu, son of late Kogi politician Abubakar Audu, on its watch list.
But six days after the announcement, neither Mr. Melaye nor any of the remaining suspects had appeared on the red notice board on the Interpol’s website.

Owojela’s Blog has learnt new details about why Interpol is yet to issue a red alert for the suspects and why it might never comply with the request from the Nigerian police to do so.

As one of the 192 member countries with active membership of the Interpol network, the police in Nigeria said Mr. Melaye was placed on Interpol red notice.
A red notice is an alert for Interpol to locate and temporarily detain an individual pending extradition. It is issued and often published by the international crime-fighting organisation at the request of a member country or an international tribunal based on a valid national arrest warrant.

Although Interpol told the Media it “does not comment on specific cases or individuals except in special circumstances and with approval of the member country concerned,” the agency listed reasons why Nigeria police request for Mr. Melaye, if at all it had been formally filed, might not meet its criteria for red alert.

“INTERPOL examines requests by member countries to issue Red Notices to ensure compliance with INTERPOL’s constitution or rules. This includes Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution, according to which it is ‘strictly forbidden for the organisation to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character,'” the agency said in response to a March 28 e-mail from a media outlet.

“INTERPOL evaluates legal and quality compliance issues in individual cases if it becomes aware of information that may prompt reevaluation of a case,” it added.

The unavailability of Mr. Melaye on Interpol’s website might be as a result of the stringent requirements of its agency’s Article 3, given the political undertone of Mr. Melaye’s case and his status as a serving senator.

Also, Interpol gave PREMIUM TIMES three reasons why a notice might not be published for an individual expected to be on its website.

“If no Red Notice is published on INTERPOL’s public website, this is either because one has not been requested or issued for that person, or the requesting country has asked that it not be made public, or the Red Notice did not meet the criteria for publication on INTERPOL’s public website,” Interpol said.

Of these three possibilities, the second about the requesting country not wanting the details to be made public may no longer apply in Mr. Melaye’s case because the police have already publicly declared that he’s wanted and placed on Interpol’s watch list.

Therefore, the unavailability of Messrs. Melaye and Audu on the Interpol’s website could either be because the police have not requested that the duo be placed on Interpol’s red notice panel, contrary to their claim, or their request failed to comply with Interpol’s Article 3 because they’re politicians.

As at 10:21 p.m. Monday, only one Nigerian is on the Interpol red alert, and he is wanted by judicial authorities and not the Nigeria police.

Moreover, the police appeared to have displayed a lack of understanding of how Interpol’s red notices are issued for a suspect, said Okechukwu Nwanguma of the Network for Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN.
“Usually, you declare a suspect wanted and ask Interpol to place such a person on red notice when the person is not within your jurisdiction or has not been seen in public for a long time,” Mr. Nwanguma told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Monday night. “You don’t declare a serving senator who has not abdicated his official position wanted.”

A few days prior to the police’s wanted declaration for Mr. Melaye, the senator was seen at Aliko Dangote’s daughter’s wedding and another wedding in Shagamu, Ogun State.

On the day he was declared wanted, Mr. Melaye appeared at the Nigerian Senate, during which he even threatened to sue the police Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris. The Senator regularly participated at the preceding plenaries and there was no indication that law enforcement officers could not get in touch with him.

Similarly, a spokesperson for Mr. Melaye, Gideon Ayodele, informed PREMIUM TIMES at 10:21 a.m. Tuesday that Mr. Melaye still has his police orderly guarding him, a week after he was declared wanted.

“This is just the latest international embarrassment that the police have brought to Nigeria, a nation that should be far above others as Africa’s leading civilised society,” Mr. Nwanguma said.

Mr. Melaye’s spokesperson welcomed the Interpol’s position, saying he was not surprised by it.

“You’re talking about the Interpol which is a reputable international organisation, there’s no way they could have acted like our police,” Mr. Ayodele said. “Don’t forget that the police don’t even have a valid arrest warrant issued by any court of law in Nigeria to be looking for my boss.”
“Did they think Interpol will just declare a serving senator wanted without doing the due diligence and professionalism?” the aide said. “All the allegations against my boss are political and we shall overcome this situation.”
Mr. Melaye’s run-in with the police emanated from his April 2017 alarm that some men he suspected to be assassins entered his country home. He immediately blamed Governor Yahaya Bello and other political figures in Kogi for the attempted murder and called in the police to investigate.
Two weeks later, the police arrested six suspects in connection to the alleged assassination plot. Amongst them was Taofiq Isah, the chairman of Ijumu Local Government Area where Mr. Melaye hailed. The suspects were subsequently arraigned in a trial that is still ongoing

A few weeks after the suspects were arrested, Mr. Melaye was caught allegedly bragging on the telephone with Mr. Audu about how he framed the chief of staff and other administration officials in Kogi.
The police said they investigated the audio and found that Mr. Melaye had lied in his statement provided to homicide detectives after the alleged attempt on his life. Officials in Kogi said the audio was taken to France for examination and it was confirmed that the voice matches Mr. Melaye’s.
The senator strongly denied the allegations, saying the audio was a poor, hatchet job by Mr. Bello, his erstwhile political ally now pitted against one another by politics. Mr. Melaye emceed the inauguration of Mr. Bello, when he was sworn in as the youngest governor in Nigeria’s history on January 27, 2016.
As investigation into Mr. Melaye’s alleged false statement to the police got underway, attempts were made to invite the senator for questioning of arrest him, the police said. But the efforts, including a siege to a federal court building in Abuja and a letter to Senate President Bukola Saraki, were allegedly frustrated by the senator.
The police also said six persons they arrested a few months ago confessed to being armed and financed by Mr. Melaye, an allegation the senator dismissed as unfounded.
Curiously, the six suspects disappeared from police custody in the early hours of March 28, hours before they were due to be arraigned before a state high court in Lokoja, the state capital. The same day, the police launched a manhunt for the escaped suspects and also declared Messrs. Melaye and Audu wanted alongside.
As at April 2, the police said all the escaped suspects have been rearrested at different locations across the country, leaving only Mr. Melaye and Mr. Audu at large.
Mr. Melaye said through his lawyers that he would submit himself to the police if the case could be transferred to Abuja from Lokoja. It was not clear whether the police have accepted this condition. The police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, did not respond to requests for comments.