Four former employees of Signatious Hotel, Warri, Delta State, who were reportedly stripped on the order of the Chairman of the hotel and former Minister of State for Education, Kenneth Gbagi, have demanded N1 billion compensation and public apology from him.
The victims’ legal team, led by Kunle Edun of Tri-Lex Partners law firm, made the demands, among others, in a September 23, 2020 letter sent to the ex-Minister, who is also a lawyer, on Wednesday.
The letter was 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.”
Edun stated that their clients: Victor Ephraim, Gloria Oguzie, Precious Achibong, Roselyn Okiemute Diaghwarhe, were stripped naked because of the tips a guest who lodged in the hotel for four days gave to them on his departure on August 20, 2020.
The letter read in part: “That after the guest’s stay, he gave our clients the sum of N105,000 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.
“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.”
The letter added that on September 17, 2020, Gbagi allegedly forcibly took the victims, one of whom was a married woman, to the hotel warehouse in the presence and assistance of the armed mobile policemen and at gunpoint ordered them “to pull off their clothes”.
The letter stated that with “the threatening presence of the armed policemen who willingly did your bidding, you directed your son of 15 years old (a minor) Master Egba Gbagi, to film and take photos of our clients’ nakedness” and then “summoned the other staff of the hotel to see the nakedness of our clients”.
The lawyers gave the ex-minister five days to among others, pay their clients N1bn “as modest damages and compensation for the unmitigated actions of yours.”
However, in response, the hotel denied that Gbagi did such.
In a statement by its Director of Human Resources, Egba Ederoghene, the hotel said: “The attention of the management of Signatious Hotel has been drawn to false accusations of staff molestation against our Chairman, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, circulating on several social platforms.
“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 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.
“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 realize is that the employees whom they hand picked for their dirty and poorly executed job were already under investigation by 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.
“We also understand that a disclaimer has been issued by one Barrister Gladys, who tendered an unreserved apology for being misled by a group of Warri Lawyers used by those behind the blackmail attempt. The lawyer in particular we were informed, retraced her steps when she discovered that the group was being used to malign the character of Olorogun Gbagi so as to serve the political interest of their paymasters.
“The management, therefore, calls on the public to disregard such cheap blackmail orchestrated by these desperate detractors deployed to work against Kenneth Gbagi’s governorship ambition.
“Finally, we wish to restate our commitment towards ensuring the highest ethical standards in the hospitality industry in Nigeria, while making it a priority to guarantee the welfare of employees engaged by our organization.”