Four employees of the Signatious Hotel, Warri, Delta State-three women and a man identified as Gloria Oguzie, Victor Ephraim, Rosslyn Okiemute and Precious Achibong were stripped naked, filmed and broadcasted online by management of the hotel on the orders of Mr. Kenneth Gbagi, the Chairman of the hotel and former Minister of State for Education.
Activists and social media users have kicked against the act and they have urged Hafiz Inuwa, the Delta State Commissioner of Police, to probe the incident and to bring to book all those involved.
The activists, who carried placards with different inscriptions, such as, ‘Human rights under attack in Delta State’, and ‘We say no to bad justice in Nigeria,’ called on the Federal and State governments and lawyers to come to the aide of the victims to get justice.
Victor Ojei, leader of the protesters and Director of Young Nigerian Right Organisation, claimed that the hotel owner directed the arrest of the workers over the sum of N5,000.
He said, ‘Three females and one man were held hostage, stripped naked in the hotel room, photographed and put on video camera by the management of the hotel.
The victims were filmed in the presence of the police and at gunpoint, and cash was also withdrawn from the their accounts through their ATM cards, before the police bundled them into a waiting van.
He proceeded by saying, ‘The police, who should protect the citizens, connived with the hotel management and dehumanised them. Let’s assume that they stole the money, there are channels to address such matters.’
Collins Chidiebere, a lawyer, human rights activist could no longer keep quiet over abuses in the state.
He stated that, ‘Human rights are supposed to be respected; those victims were kidnapped, held hostage, stripped naked for a period of four days, because of a mere allegation of stealing.’
Omemiroro Ogedegbe, also a lawyer, told the media that an appeal would be sent to the state Commissioner of Police over the matter.
He said, ‘The workers were arrested on Friday. By Sunday, we got information that they were not granted bail, because of their economic conditions. We intervened and asked the Divisional Police Officer to charge them.’
‘It was after their bail that they narrated their ordeal. They said Gbagi ordered that they should be stripped naked and videoed.’
Egba Ederoghene, Director Human Resources of Signatious Hotel, in a statement, said the allegations were meant to tarnish the reputation of Gbagi.
He said, ‘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 staff members in the pictures are part of a malicious conspiracy by some political detractors to bring Gbagi’s character to disrepute. This is not the first time an attempt has been made to smear the character of our chairman for whatever reason.
‘In the absence of any dirt to nail Gbagi’s pristine reputation, they have descended to mudslinging by concocting fictitious stories to stir emotions and gain public attention.
‘However, what those behind the recent blackmail against Gbagi do not realise is that the employees, whom they handpicked for their dirty and poorly executed job, were already under investigation by the management for conniving to steal huge sums of money from the hotel, some of which have been recovered. Confessional statements to this effect can be obtained from the Ebrumede Police Station.’
Ederoghene proceeded by saying, the lawyers and activists speaking for the victims were backed ‘so as to serve the political interest of their paymasters.’
The former minister, while addressing journalists on Tuesday denied any form of involvement in the matter as he expressed shock at the degradation of the workers and promised to look into it.
In his words, he said: ‘I have handed over the running of the hotel to a management team.’
He however, accused his political detractors of using the incident to rubbish his aspiration and foil his bid for the 2023 governorship race in the state.