Nigerians have taken a swipe against the country’s former Minister of State for Education, Kenneth Gbagi, after four of his hotel staff members, including three ladies, were stripped naked over an alleged theft of N5,000.
The minister said to have ordered the punishment in front of the policemen brought in to effect their arrest, came under intense criticism on Tuesday, after the naked photographs of the four employees went viral on the social media.
Reports had it was before the four employees of the Signatious Hotel, Warri, Delta State, were driven away and taken into custody by the police, that their nudes were filmed and the snapshots later posted online were taken.
As a result, on Tuesday, different categories of Nigerians, which include activists and social media influencers took to Asaba streets, and the social media in protest, while they called on the state’s Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, to investigate the incident and arrest all those found culpable.
Some of the activists who carried placards on Asaba streets in protest, against what they called the “dehumanisation of the hotel workers,” identified as Gloria Oguzie, Victor Ephraim, Rosslyn Okiemute and Precious Achibong, called for justice to be served.
With different inscriptions on their placards, such as, “Human rights under attack in Delta State,” and “We say no to bad justice in Nigeria,” the activists called on the federal and state governments and lawyers to assist the victims in getting justice.
The Director, Young Nigerian Right Organisation, Victor Ojei, who is the leader of the protesters, narrating the story, alleged that the hotel owner ordered the arrest of the workers over N5,000 theft.
Ojei 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.
“Last week Friday, the management of the hotel stripped the ladies naked, filmed them in the presence of the police and at gunpoint. Cash was also withdrawn from the victims’ accounts through their ATM cards, before the police bundled them into a waiting van.
“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.”
Another protester, a lawyer, Collins Chidiebere, who spoke, said: “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.
“There is a court of competent jurisdiction that should look into the matter and confirm whether these persons are innocent or guilty of the allegation. No one should take the law into their own hands.”
However, the Director, Human Resources, Signatious Hotel, Egba Ederoghene, in a statement, refuted the allegations, saying, they were meant to tarnish the reputation of Gbagi.
In the statement entitled, ‘The futile attempt of political detractors to blackmail Gbagi,’ Ederoghene 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.”
Similarly, the former minister, in his personal reaction, expressed shock at the dehumanisation of the workers and promised to look into it.
Addressing journalists on Tuesday, Gbagi, who denied any involvement in the matter, said: “I have handed over the running of the hotel to a management team.”
Rather, Gbagi, accused his political enemies of taking advantage of the incident to rubbish his ambition ahead of the 2023 governorship race in the state.
It was gathered that the workers taken into custody heve been arraigned on five counts of stealing various sums of money from the hotel, ranging from N156,000; N111,000; N5,000 and N2,000, and the magistrate admitted them to bail in liberal terms.