* But govt says injured task force men still in pains
By Codratus Godson
Promise Gogolobari is from Khana local council area but bought two and half parcels of land in Alode Eleme to exploit an investment gap he saw in terms of a leisure business. Today, the hotel of 21 rooms he built over five years ago has been demolished by his own state government fighting against the coronavirus pandemic.
The investor who lives in Lagos says he is still in shock to articulate his position.
The owner of Prodest Hotel, one of the two hotels in Eleme near Port Harcourt demolished by Gov Nyesom Wike for allegedly violating lockdown order says he is still in shock.
The owner, Mr Promise Gogolobari, a Lagos-based private sector worker, told BusinessDay in a brief telephone interview that he got information by Saturday night that his hotel located in Alode area of Eleme town violated the lockdown order only to wake up the next day to hear that demolition had started.
Gogolobari said he was yet to come to terms with the ugly development, saying nobody showed him any charges, nobody gave him fair hearing, and nobody allowed due process to take place. He said he did not get up to 24 hour notice to articulate a defence. He said he was yet to decide his next line of action.
Close sources disclosed that the hotel sat on two and half plots of land he bought many years ago for N3.5m though the certificate of occupancy is yet to be obtained. The sources said the hotel had operated for about five years with over 17 workers.
Giving further clarifications, a friend to the owner, Hon Dae Leegbara, told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview that the hotel was not in full operation, contrary to the statement the government gave out.
The spokesman said the order by the state government on lockdown was made known to them and that the hotel complied. He said but the Eleme local Government Task Force chairman on Covid-19, Princewill Oaroejiji, used the hotel as operational base to enforce lockdown in Eleme.
He said when the latest order by the governor for total lockdown in Port Harcourt and shutdown of all hotels came, the management informed the task force chairman who was supposed to see manifest and approve who should stay. The chairman of the task force agreed they should not admit any new lodgers except his men that were using the place as operational centre.
He said local chiefs now set up another community task force who came for enforcement and this provoked local rivalry and a clash in the community, not in the hotel. Leegbara insisted that what took place was mere clash between rival youth factions or task forces in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Eleme.
He said the hotel manager is detained and that evidence of their innocence has been destroyed.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State government which has come under massive pressure on the demolition action said task force men that went to enforce shutdown were attacked and still in pains at the hospital.
The statement said: “Some members of the Rivers State COVID-19 Task Force on Monday explained how the PDP Eleme Youth Leader, Princewill Osaroejiji, led several thugs to inflict injuries on them at the premises of Prodest Hotel, Eleme.
“The Task Force members who are hospitalized at Famo Clinic, Eleme told journalists that they met Prodest Motel in operation. Speaking from his hospital bed, Friday Osaro Oloka said that when they got to Prodest Motel, a party was ongoing. He said that they approached the hotel manager, who sought permission to call his proprietor.
He said: “The manager called and the PDP Youth Leader came with some boys. They beat us severely. The PDP Youth Leader asked us why we came to the hotel where he lodged. We told him we didn’t know that’s where he lodged. Despite that he and his boys beat us till 8pm.”
The government statement quoted other injured members that spoke about their injuries too.
Another Task Force Member, Samuel Ndu admitted that people were drinking and partying at the hotel when they got there.
He said: “The Manager asked us to wait. Thereafter, several persons came with the PDP Youth Leader who beat us.
“We got Information that the hotel has been operating despite the order to close hotels etc.”
Appollos Orr, a Task Force member who sustained injuries, we went there to check their manifest and inquire why the hotel was operational.
He said: “We were observing the manifest when we started hearing shouts from outside. Thereafter, we saw Mr Princewill Osaroejiji and his thugs who beat and injured us”.
Dr Emmanuel Ejembi of Famo Clinic said that the Task Force members were brought into the hotel with severe injuries. He said that they said it was a case of assault.
He said the Task Force members complained of Fracture on right knee, pains on their neck and stomach. He pointed out that they are now safe.
Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area, Philip Okwaraji acknowledged that the Task-force members were beaten up at the Prodest Motel by the PDP Youth Leader.
He said the State Government issued the Executive Order on 4th May and the Eleme Local Government issued notices to all hotels on May 5th, 2020. He said anyone who flouts Executive Orders knows that there will be consequences.