The police have paraded two men they said were members of an armed gang perpetrating violence in Kogi State.
The police said the suspects had confessed to being provided with weapons and financial support by Senator Dino Melaye, who has been in a long-drawn bitter feud with Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello.
Only weeks ago, Melaye had raised alarm over alleged importation of military hardware by Bello as part of a plan to empower a militia against political opponents in the state.
The development will only complicate the messy spat further and raise serious questions about security especially in the build-up to what promises to be a heated political contest in 2019.
A statement Monday by police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, said the suspects, identified as Kabiru Saidu and Nuru Salisu, were paraded on Monday in Lokoja, the state capital.
Moshood, an assistant commissioner for police, said the detectives arrested the suspects with a cache of arms that included AK-47 rifles and pump action firearms.
The spokesperson also said the suspects confessed during interrogations that they were being sponsored by Melaye, who represents Kogi West Senatorial District. The criminal indictments were part of the reasons police were looking for Melaye, Moshood added.
The police said Saidu, 31, and Salisu, 25, were arrested on January 19 following a shootout with the police that lasted several hours in Ogojueje, a community in Dekina Local Government Area of the state.
Moshood said the suspects allegedly “confessed to various criminal roles they played in the commission of several kidnappings and armed robbery in different towns across Kogi State and its environs,” adding that they had been on the police’s wanted list for two years.
The police said Saidu told them that he was introduced to Melaye by Mohammed Audu, son of late former Kogi governor, Abubakar Audu.
“The suspect further confessed that” Melaye “told him that they should start working for” him “as his political thugs and they should recruit and train more thugs to work for him in preparation toward 2019 general election to enable him (Dino Melaye ) challenge his political opponents and disorganise Kogi State,” the police said.
After the meeting, the police said, Melaye gave Messrs. Saidu and Salisu one AK-47 rifle, two pump action guns and N430,000 cash.
Following the interrogations, the police said they wrote to Senate President Bukola Saraki, asking him in a March 2 letter to release Melaye for questioning by the police in Kogi State. But Melaye allegedly frustrated the police’s efforts, triggering a manhunt for him.
Reacting to this development, Melaye dismissed all the allegations against him, describing them as “fabricated”.
“Fabricated lies by Kogi State Govt and the police will fail. It’s utterly laughable and preposterous. It’s a sign of desperation,” Mr. Melaye said in a post on Twitter shortly after reports that he had been implicated by suspects.
“No amount of lies and blackmail will detract my attention from speaking the truth and defending it,” he said.