Dino Melaye, the Kogi senator who was arrested in Abuja early Monday, has been released after a stand-off that lasted about two and a half hours, his spokesperson said.
Mr Melaye, who represents Kogi West Senatorial District, was arrested by the Nigerian Immigration Service at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Monday morning.
According to Gideon Ayodele, the Senator was on his way to Morocco on an official assignment sponsored by the Nigerian government when he was held by security.
The arrest, which followed weeks of controversies between the senator and the police, generated widespread reaction Monday morning. While some welcomed it as deserving of a controversial lawmaker like Mr Melaye, others criticised the arrest as an act of executive recklessness.
Some of Mr Melaye’s colleagues at the Senate, like Ben Murray-Bruce, condemned his arrest and called on federal authorities to release him immediately.
His arrest was initially linked to the police, who have been on a manhunt for him for several weeks, and had declared the lawmaker wanted for his alleged links to violence in Kogi state.
Mr Melaye denied wrongdoing, saying his ordeal was politically-motivated.
“He was released after the police couldn’t pin anything on him,” said Mr Ayodele. “The immigration officials who thought they were trying to help the police when they initially detained him were also embarrassed that the police couldn’t take him into custody.”
The development could further surprise Nigerians who have long been shocked at the police’s apparent failure to enforce their own arrest warrant. Mr Melaye was declared wanted over a month ago, but he still has at least two police officers in his security detail.
The senator also reportedly met with Kogi police commissioner, the same officer that declared him wanted, at a burial event for a later House of Representatives member from Kogi State two weeks ago.
The Interpol told PREMIUM TIMES earlier this month that it had not placed Mr Melaye on its watch list contrary to Nigeria police’s claims.
A text message and several phone calls to Jimoh Moshood, the spokesperson at Force Headquarters, seeking comments about the airport fiasco had not been returned several hours later.