The president of Niger's National Assembly has fled the country after his immunity was lifted so he could be questioned about a baby trafficking scandal that has shaken the country's political class

A statement read out on state television Wednesday night says Hama Amadou fled for neighboring Burkina Faso. Amadou's wife, the country's agriculture minister, and 16 other people have already been arrested over their suspected links to the network involving the trafficking of babies from neighboring Nigeria.

The announcement that Amadou had fled came just hours after members of Niger's parliament lifted his immunity. He was supposed to be interviewed by a judge in the coming days.

Amadou is a political rival to President Mahamadou Issoufou, and his allies have decried the arrests as politically motivated.