A bloody clash was on Wednesday averted at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja as members of the Anti-Corruption Network led by its Executive Secretary, Mr. Dino Melaye and a group of youths allegedly sponsored by the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah clashed during a protest against the purchase of two armoured vehicles worth N255m for the minister.
Melaye, a former member of the House of Representatives and his group were held hostage for about 50 minutes by a team of about 200 riot policemen led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sunday Odukoya.
Melaye was arrested around 12.55pm and driven in a police Toyota Hilux Car (open roof) with registration number NPF 2128 C to the FCT Command for interrogation. This was after 28 anti-Oduah protesters had been arrested by the police.
The protesters’ offence, Odukoya said, include traffic obstruction and disturbance of public peace.
But there were speculations that Melaye might have been moved to an unknown destination as calls and text messages sent to his mobile phone were not replied.
As at the time of this report (5:58 pm), the whereabouts of the ACN leader remained unknown as his members of staff also claimed ignorance of where he was.
While Melaye’s group were shouting “Stella Must Go”, the pro-government hoodlums were brandishing dangerous weapons and shouting, “Stella Must Stay.”
But they were overwhelmed by Melaye’s group because of the latter’s numerical strength.
The pro-Oduah protesters harassed journalists and threatened to smash their television cameras and the camera of some photojournalists.
Melaye had entered his vehicle to leave the protest venue before he got a hint that 28 of his supporters had been arrested by the police. He rushed to the scene to plead for their release.
When his plea for the release of the protesters was not heeded by the police, Melaye asked them to arrest him rather than going away with the protesters, who he noted, were innocent Nigerians expressing their constitutional and fundamental rights.
Before his arrest by the police, Melaye and his group were attacked by the pro-Oduah group with dangerous weapons including matchetes, long knives and sticks.
But the repeated pleas by Melaye to his group to remain calm prevented the protest from degenerating into violence.
Ironically, some of the youths, including a set of twins, were said to have been recruited from Melaye’s Ijumu/Kabba federal constituency in Kogi State.
One of the twins told journalists that they embarked on the pro-Oduah protest “because of hunger.”
“I come from the same place with Dino but this matter has gone beyond brother or sentiment. I am a jobless graduate. In this case, whoever pays me is the person I will support. We are here because of hunger,” he said.