The Delta State Police Command has declared a former Minister of State for Education, Kenneth Gbagi, wanted in connection with the stripping of four workers in Signatious Hotel in Effurun belonging to him over alleged theft.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the assault on the four workers identified as Victor Ephraim, Gloria Oguzie, Precious Archibong, and Okiemute Diaghwarhe, happened on August 30 after the Mr Gbagi allegedly suspected a N5,000 theft.
The management of the hotel, allegedly at the instance of the former minister, stripped, photographed, and arrested the victims for alleged stealing. The photographs of the assaulted staff went viral last week.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Onome Onovwakpoyeya, a deputy superintendent of police, said in a statement on Thursday that the police declared Mr Gbagi wanted for failing to honour an earlier invitation by the Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, through the Area Commander of Warri Division on September 25.
The statement read in part, "Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi was invited by the Commissioner of Police through the Area Commander Warri and DPO (Divisional Police Officer) of Ebrumede Division on September 25, 2020, for questioning concerning the alleged dehumanising manner in which he ordered some of his staffs to be stripped naked and physically assaulted because of an alleged case of stealing which took place at Signatious Hotel belonging to him.
"Kenneth Gbagi personally and severally called and gave excuses that he has a burial ceremony of his elder sister on Friday 25/9/2020 in which he is a key player, and asked for time to finish with the ceremony on Sunday, thereafter he will report at the state Headquarters on Monday, September 28, 2020. These requests were granted on humanitarian ground.
"On Monday, September 28, 2020, Kenneth Gbagi called the Commissioner of Police to say that he has a court case to attend to, promising to report at the Police headquarters in Asaba by 3pm. Again he was equally obliged. On the same date, the Commissioner of Police had to call him at about 5pm before the same Kenneth Gbagi said he was on his way to the state HQ Asaba.
"Sadly and unfortunately Kenneth Gbagi still failed to report instead he went into the public space to disparage, blackmail and maligned the person of the Commissioner of Police and the Nigeria Police Force, Delta State Command for insisting on investigating him.
"Having failed to honour his promises, the Delta State Police Command is left with no option than to declare Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi wanted."
Lawyers, hotel speak
Meanwhile, the lawyers representing the assaulted workers said the alleged theft of N5,000 was actually a tip given them (workers) by a guest that lodged in the hotel for four days.
The lawyers, who said they would slam N1 billion suit against Mr Gbagi as damages and compensation for the unmitigated actions, also said they have already written a letter to the National Human Rights Commission for gross violation of their clients' rights.
A copy of the notice was seen by the reporter.
In their reaction, Egba Ederoghene, an official of the Signatious Hotel denied the involvement of Mr Gbagi in the matter.
Also, a statement issued by the facility on September 22 defended their principal.
It read, "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 handpicked 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, retracted her steps when she discovered that the group was being used to malign the character of Olorogun Gbagi 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 organisation."