Some former staff members of Signatious Hotel, Warri, Delta State, who were allegedly assaulted by the former minister of state for education, Kenneth Gbagi, who is also the owner of the hotel, have yet to get justice.
Gbagi had in September 2020 accused four of his staff members, Precious Achibong, Roselyn Okiemute Diaghwarh, Victor Ephraim, and Gloria Oguzie working in his hotel in Warri, Delta State, of stealing his N50,000.
The victims said the money Gbagi accused them of stealing were tips given to them by a customer who had lodged at the hotel.
He had stripped them naked, taken photographs of them and videoed them before handing them over to the police, who detained them for four days and subsequently charged them to court.
The alleged humiliation of the suspects by Gbagi provoked women, girls, and human rights activists to embark on a mass protest across the state to call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the former education minister.
Accounts Of The Victims
Gloria Oguzie, the married woman who was stripped naked had in an interview with Arise TV in April 2021, said: “On the 30th of August 2020, a guest walked into the Signatious hotels and suites to book a room. We gave him Room 301 worth N25,000. When he wanted to make his payment, he said he wanted to make a transfer.
“I told him we don’t accept transfers in the night because there is nobody to confirm the transfer to avoid fake transactions. I and Mr. Victor were on duty that night. He pleaded with us that we should render our accounts.
“I wasn’t with my ATM card so I asked my colleague, Mr. Victor, to help with his account number. Then he transferred the money and stayed for 4 nights. After everything, he gave us tips in appreciation of our efforts, most especially Mr Victor who was running errands for the guy.
“After that, on September 18th, I was on my duty post when the Chairman of Signatious hotels & suites, Mr. Kenneth Gbagi, came to my duty post and called me to come to his office.
“On getting there, he started asking what happened at a certain date, who gave us money? And I explained all that happened that day. He said that the staff members do not deserve, or, have any right to receive tips from guests, that any money received from guests should go directly to the hotel’s account.
“He hijacked me with the help of his mobile policemen, took me to a warehouse where they kept bed sheets and stripped me naked there. I was even pleading that I’m a married woman and I didn’t steal his money, that it was only a tip from a guest. He didn’t listen, he was even looking for a sack to put me in.
“He said he would render me useless, that at the end of the day, I would not amount to anything in society. After that, he brought me outside to meet one Mr. Victor and asked me to write a statement under duress that I stole money from him at gunpoint. They later requested my ATM card with the help of his account officer, Mr. Success; they withdrew all the money in my account (N161,500).
“They later brought in the rest of my colleagues, Mrs. Precious and Roselyn, and took us around the hotel premises naked even though there were guests in the hotel reception who wanted to lodge. They took us to the restaurant and gathered both senior and junior staff to see our nakedness; he called his 10-year-old son, Master Egba, to film us and put it on social media, take a video of us and put on social media so they’d render us useless in the society.
“He called the police station to come and pick us up and make sure that we go to jail for 5 years for stealing his money while we were pleading with him to have mercy on us, that it was only a tip we received from the guest, but he said he would make sure we suffered. While we were still naked, the police officers came and asked us to put on our clothes and follow them to the police station. They even handcuffed us and put us in their van; we stayed in the cell for 3 days.
“After that, with the help of our lawyers, they bailed us and we were charged to court. And on the day of judgement, we were charged the same amount he withdrew from our accounts; it is what he used to accuse us that I stole from N161,500 from him while he said Mrs. Precious stole N5, 000 from him. Ever since then, I have been without a job and have been suffering. I was 3 months pregnant when the incident happened, when he stripped me naked. He said that me that I’m a married woman, he’ll make sure he disgraces me in society.
“I want justice, that is all I want because we were dehumanised; he treated us like animals; all I want is justice.”
Another staff member who was assaulted by the former minister and his mobile officers, Roseline Okiemute, said she was forced to remove her clothes as the officers cocked their guns and threatened to shoot her if she disobeyed the order.
Okiemute said she was sent out of the house she was staying at the time as the owner feared for the life of her children, She also said efforts to get another job have been futile. She said whenever she goes for interviews, she would be humiliated and tagged a ‘thief’ for what she never did.
“What I want is justice, I don’t have a job, I don’t have accommodation. The person I was staying with asked me to leave the house because she didn’t want to endanger her children. Whenever I go for an interview, they ridicule me, call me a thief. This man cannot be roaming the street of Nigeria without us getting justice.”
Another female victim, Precious Archibong said life has become tough for her as she cannot walk freely in society without having to hang her head in shame. According to her, Gbagi has made life a living hell for her.
“This man has made my life miserable. I’m just tired, I feel like dying,” she said.
The affected staff members further instituted suits at the court of law against Gbagi. However, they have yet to get justice, a source told SaharaReporters on Friday.
In September 2021, a High Court sitting in Effurun, Delta State, dismissed the suit seeking the enforcement of fundamental rights filed against Gbagi.
The presiding Judge, Justice Emmanuel Dolor, ruled that the suit marked EHC/FHR/79/2020, lacked merit and could not hold water.
However, the criminal proceedings against Gbagi had opened at the federal and state high courts in Asaba.
In a recent development, a source told SaharaReporters that the former minister was moving about freely without remorse while his victims were still nursing the psychological trauma as a result of the humiliation they suffered.
According to him, one of the victims, a married woman who was pregnant at the time, was stripped naked.
She has since been delivered of a baby yet there is no justice.
The source who described Gbagi as ‘Mr Untouchable,’ said the former minister recently built a multi-million naira hotel with over 100 rooms, with promises to offer premium hospitality, while his victims were left to suffer after he withdrew the little amount of money they had in their account.