*Outcry over striping naked, arrest of workers over ‘N5,000 theft’
On Tuesday young Nigerian activists, under the auspices of Young Nigerian Rights Organisation (YNRO), protested against serial Delta State governorship aspirant and businessman, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi.
The former Minister of Education (State) was alleged to have maltreated four workers at his Signatous Hotel in Effurun area of the state, over alleged theft.
The protest was sparked off by the emergence of a video showing three ladies, stripped to their thongs, and a male wearing nothing but a pair of boxers.
They were accused of complicity in missing N5,000 from the hotel, owned by Gbagi. Reports by social media blogger, Sapele Oghenek, which was not verified, claimed that Gbagi’s 15-year-old son was behind the camera with him as he humiliated and dehumanised the workers over the alleged theft.
However, the former minister outrightly denied having anything to do with the incident, insisting: “I have handed over the running of the hotel to a management.”
ON Tuesday, placard-carrying protesters marched on major roads denouncing the treatment meted on the quartet. “Human rights under attack in Delta State”; “We say no to bad justice in Nigeria”; “Federal Government, Nigerian lawyers and other well-meaning individuals should assist the victims to get justice,” their posters read.
Victor Ojei, who led the protest, alleged: “Three females and one man were held hostage, stripped naked in the hotel room, photographed and put on video cameras by the management of the hotel.”
He said that the atrocious act was carried out with gun pointed at the victims by security operatives attached to Gbagi, adding, “Cash was also withdrawn from the victims’ accounts through their ATM cards before the police bundled them into a waiting van.”
Egba Ederoghene, Signatous Hotel spokesperson, denied the allegation, but failed to address the issues raised by the protesters, such as how the photographs and video clips of the image were recorded and how they got into public domain.
“We wish to categorically state that at no time did Gbagi subject any staff of the hotel to such humiliation as he is presently bereaved and occupied with preparing for the funeral of his sister who passed away recently.
“The management also wishes to use this opportunity to inform the public that the workers in the pictures are part of a malicious conspiracy by some political detractors to bring Gbagi’s character to disrepute.
“This wouldn’t be the first time an attempt has been made to smear the character of our Chairman for whatever reason,” Ederoghene added.
It was learnt that shortly after the protest, the Ebrumede Police Station was hurriedly drafted in to charge and arraign the hapless staff on allegation that they stole about N200,000.
Naija Daily News that it is not the first time that the business mogul and criminologist would be involved in scandal bothering on acts of inhumanity towards less fortunate members of the society.
His development of the Hotel commenced under very controversial circumstances in November 2008. The land housing abattoir was the subject of litigation when development commenced, our findings showed.
The foundation was laid as mysterious fire gutted the makeshift building and abattoirs operated by a group of over 100 persons, who were predominantly women, some of them widows and single-parents.
The women claimed that Gbagi ignited the fire before the break of down, but he would neither deny nor confirmed to journalists, who sought his comments.
Yet, while structures were being ravaged by fire, Gbagi, backed by security operatives, moved menial workers into the site and started digging the foundation of what is now Signatous Hotel.
It was carried out in presence of some journalists that were called in my the helpless women.
Yet Gbagi was unmoved.
The incident occurred barely one week to a court hearing over the disputed land by interested parties – Chief Emmanuel Wekpe, who sold to the women, on one side, and Chief Joe Unuama, who sold to Gbagi on the other.
A lawyer, Hon Prince Alex Igbinoba, who represented the hapless women, told newsmen that Gbagi had earlier boasted the suit would be determined in his favour, having met and obtained assurance from the presiding judge.
Igbinoba said Gbagi boasted to him: ‘I am Gbagi, everybody in this country knows me. Nobody, military or police can stop me. President Yar’Adua, Ibori and a lot of them listen to me.’”
Igbinoba said he was surprised that “Gbagi wilfully defied all appeals and “burnt the place. It is barbaric of him to have come with policemen and thugs around 2am, shooting sporadically in the air to scare everyone away before burning down the business structures on ground and several > properties in the place”.
A reporter who covered the shameful event said Gbagi declined further comment, after insisting: “I am the owner of the land and I am developing it. I have nothing to tell you. They spoke to you, go suit yourself. Publish whatever thing you want. I am not in court. Nobody sued me. I have told you. You go form whatever opinion you.”
Also, the serial poll loser is famous for running Robson Plaza – his only known sustainable and successful business concern in Warri, with similar disdain for rule of law and civility.
A new generation bank with an office at the complex was forced out after the politician dumped truck-load of sharp sand at the entrance of the bank. The move was a climax of a running battle between the bank and Gbagi.
Stall owners also face harassments and humiliation in his hands.
“There was a time he locked the plaza for several days because he wanted the unions bank details in his possession. The union was set up by traders in the plaza to protect their interests and forge common interest. But immediately he heard about it he forced himself to take charge,” a shop-owner told NDN under stern condition that his name should not be mentioned.
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