The four former staff of Signatious Hotel in Warri, Delta State, who were allegedly stripped naked on the order of the owner of the hotel who is a former Minister of State for Education, Kenneth Gbagi, have written a letter to him demanding N1bn ($2.5m) compensation and a public apology from him. They also threatened a legal action if their demand was not granted.
The victims’ legal team led by Kunle Edun of Tri-Lex Partners law firm, made the demands, among others in a letter sent to Gbagi on Wednesday, according to Saharareporters.
Gbagi is reportedly nursing a governorship ambition in Delta State in 2023 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The four employees, Victor Ephraim, Gloria Oguzie, Mrs. Precious Achibong, and Roselyn Okiemute Diaghwarhe, said they were stripped naked and photographed on the orders of the ex-minister and then handed over to the police, because of tips that a guest who lodged at the hotel for four days gave to them on his departure on August 20, 2020.
The four employees were charged before a magistrate court sitting in Effurun after four days of detention before they were granted bail.
In a five-count charge, they were accused of conniving among themselves to steal monies ranging from N156,000 ($410), N110,000 ($290), N5,000($13) and N2,000($5) owned by Signatious Hotel and committed an offence punishable under section 516 and 390 (9), of the criminal code Law Cap21C Vol.1 Law of Delta State.
The letter by the employees’ legal team is titled, ‘Trial by ordeal, torture, stripping naked and bestial conduct of Signatious Hotel and yourself in an organised show of shame and animalism: Notice of intention to seek full legal redress’. The letter reads:
“That after the guest’s stay, he gave our clients the sum of N105, 000.00 (One Hundred and Five Thousand Naira) as tips for the good time that he had at the hotel. This again, is not unusual in the hospitality business. That the hotel did not lose any money neither was any alleged to have been stolen. That when you got wind of what happened (most likely you refused to believe that there are still honest Nigerians) you summoned our clients to your office immediately and subjected them to tortuous interrogations (in the presence of your armed mobile policemen) where you demanded that all the tips given to our clients must be returned to you.
“You told our clients menacingly that they are not entitled to tips, as all tips belong to you. As a matter of fact, you categorically stated that they were not supposed to have monies in their accounts as long as they were working for you. This is not surprising, because according to our clients, you hardly paid staff salaries regularly and at times the staff worked without pay for months.
“That on Thursday, the 17th of September, 2020 you forcibly took our clients to the hotel warehouse and later to your office (also at the hotel’s restaurant) in the presence and active assistance of the armed mobile policemen (paid by tax payers) and at gunpoint ordered our clients to pull off their clothes.
“That you were still not done. You summoned the other staff of the hotel to see the nakedness of our clients. They were shocked at what you and your son were doing but still had to look at the shameful sight because they were afraid of you. They also joined in taking snapshots. You took every pride and dignity that our clients had away from them and according to you, that is the way thieves should be treated. You became the accuser, the judge and executioner.
“That the case of the married woman is even more pathetic. She was assigned to the food and beverage department. You alleged that there was a shortage of N1,000.00 in her sales for the 18th of September, 2020 and demanded that she returned the money, notwithstanding the fact that she was not the staff directly responsible. But as the Supervisor she promised to return the N1, 000.00.
“That at gunpoint, you forcibly collected their ATM cards and used the hotel’s Point On Sale device to transfer all the monies in our clients’ bank accounts. You withdrew the sum of N111, 000.00 from the account of Victor Ephraim on Friday, the 18th of September, 2020. Same time also you unlawfully withdrew the sum of N176, 500.00 (One Hundred and Seventy Six Thousand Five Hundred Naira) from the account of Gloria Oguzie.
“You withdrew the sum of N5, 000.00 (Five Thousand Naira) from Okiemute Roseline Diaghwarhe which you claimed was what she “stole” from you. Precious Achibong had already under duress, refunded the sum of N2, 000.00 even though the alleged shortage from her daily sale was N1,000.00 but you still subjected her to this infamous show of bestiality.”