How Hotel Caused Death of Lawyer Over Missing N28, 000 Meat, Snail

In the last one decade, several international and continental hotel chains have invaded the country without the necessary scrutiny to ascertain their operation in the country, apart from mere registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission [CAC] and relevant government agencies that have the competence to do so.

For close to three decades, the likes of Hilton, Sheraton, Meridien except run-away Holiday Inn, have remained the biggest players and most respected until continental names like Protea, African Sun and of late Southern came into the picture.

Without mincing words, these continental players that are mainly Southern Africa businesses have fallen short of international standards and have therefore, invented what can be referred to as continental standards that are according to hospitality experts, shameful.

Investigations by African Travel Times Magazine revealed that the condition of employment for their Nigerian workers can at best be described as nothing but total enslavement.

Workers complaints are met with serious intimidation and administrative brutality in connivance with the few privileged Nigerian management staff.

One of such incident that comes to mind was the recent unbelievable drama that played out at Southern Sun Hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos which many said was nothing but administrative recklessness when two of the hotel staff where charged to court over allegation of missing meat and snail.

The two staff, Okedairo Okedeji, 38 and Akolade Agbola 28, were arraigned on February 29, for the crime the hotel alleged they committed on November 11, 2015.
While many that read the story were not angry for the action the hotel management took by going to court over N28.000.00 worth of meat and snail, they were however, of the opinion that such could have been handled internally.

To add salt into injury, a lawyer simply identified as Chidi slumped and died within the premises of the Igbosere Magistrates’ Court in Lagos Island, on Tuesday 8, March 2016, while representing the accused persons.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria [NAN], the court had already adjourned the case to April 14 by the time Chidi got there with his client, who was accused of stealing.

The lawyer reportedly apologised to the court for coming late, attributing it to traffic.
NAN reported that while the lawyer was speaking, he suddenly started gasping for breath and was coughing profusely, making his clients to rush him outside the court room for fresh air.

NAN reported that according to eyewitness, when the cough persisted, his tie was removed, while he pleaded that a cab should be provided to take him home. By the time the cab arrived, Chidi was said to have lost strength, making his clients to carry him, but before he could be rushed to the hospital, he stopped breathing when he was put in a cab.

Thereon, the taxi man was said to have returned him to the court premises, saying he could not carry the lawyer for the fear of police harassment. He was later pronounced dead at the Lagos Island General Hospital.

While the pandemonium lasted at the Igbosere High Court, and news spread of the dead lawyer of the two accused, the management of the hotel sprang into action through their Public Relations Agency [Soulcomm] to quickly ensure that none of the judicial correspondents [journalists] present in court links Southern Sun Hotel to the dead lawyer’s story.

The question is why would a hotel that went to court on its own volition make such a shameful and dishonourable move?

Earlier in the year, on 26 January 2016 to be precise, the management of Southern Sun Hotel issued a press release, a copy of which was mailed to this publication by Yemisi Oyekanmi of Soulcomm.

According to the release, Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel said, “some employees of Southern Sun Hotel embarked on an unlawful and unprotected strike by refusing to work and gathering in the Hotel lobby”.

“The employees that are striking are members of the National Union of Hotels and Personal Services Workers. They are striking in support of a demand that they be granted the same wage increases that were recently granted to employees of Southern Sun that are not members of the Union.

“Wage increases for Union members are negotiated and determined at a centralised, industry level, and those industry level negotiations have not yet been concluded.

“Southern Sun is precluded by law from negotiating wage increases for Union members at unit level. It is also not permitted to grant wage increases to Union members, until the centralised negotiation process to determine wage increases for Union members has been finalised”.

The hotel went further to say in the release that, “Accordingly, the company cannot lawfully comply with the demand that is being made by the striking employees”.

In addition, the release stated further, “the striking employees have not complied with the legislative dispute resolution procedures before resorting to strike action; the employees and the Union have been notified that the strike action is unlawful and unprotected.

“Southern Sun is closely monitoring the situation and is considering all of its options. It has implemented additional security measures to prevent intimidation and violence, and is continuing to work with the Union to secure the return to work of the employees”.

The release concluded, “Southern Sun in line with our tradition of excellence, continues to work with the Union to promptly resolve all misunderstandings and to reassure our staff of their welfare and benefits as they are due and verifiable”.

When African Travel Times Magazine contacted Ubong Nseobot, the hotel’s Sales and Public Relations manager on her mobile number, she said she was on vacation and would be willing to schedule a meeting with this publication editor for further clarifications should we need more information.

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