- Posted December 24, 2013 by
UPDATE ON THE UPPER CLASS HOTEL, ONITSHA LAWLESS DEMOLITION BY GOVERNOR PETER OBI. V
Evidence also later emerged that Chief Bonaventure Mokwe, proprietor of the Upper Class Hotel had been in a land dispute with some land speculators who had threatened to ‘deal’ with him months earlier. Another poser was the anonymous tip which alerted the Police to the hotel. The manifest of the hotel shows that one Mr. John Obi checked into the room where the incriminating items were discovered. He had locked the room and went away with the key minutes before arrival of the Police at the hotel acting on a tip off.
Armed with a search warrant, the police went straight to Room 102 where they recovering the items. Mokwe and his staff were immediately placed under arrest and subsequently whisked away. In the course of his three months detention, Mokwe was held at both the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) Awkuzu and the Onitsha Prison before he was granted bail on November 4, 2013.
Nevertheless almost five months since his arrest and demolition of his hotel by Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State there are still more questions than answers regarding what really transpired at the hotel. Questions are being asked why the Police did not arrest Obi, the man who lodged in the Room 102. This is despite the fact that though the lodging receipt and manifest of the hotel which was submitted to the Police shows he was occupying the room and has not check out as at the time of the search. Evidence also later emerged that the man checked into the room under an assumed name. He was discovered to be a close associate of the men who had threatened to ‘deal’ with the hotelier.
Meanwhile, Mokwe who has been released on bail and is battling to clear his name has vowed that the governor must compensate him for knocking down the hotel which he inherited from his father as well as for tarnishing his family name. He was recently in Lagos speaking for the first time on his ordeals and the under currents of his arrest and detention.
In the beginning:
Before his arrest, Mokwe was involved in a land dispute with some Onitsha natives over the control of a motor park. The motor-park belonging to the hotelier is a source of daily revenue. Perhaps, the land speculators were attracted to the land because of its strategic location near the popular Ose Market in the commercial city.
Mokwe explained that as the dispute raged and was getting beyond reasoning, “I wrote to the Obi of Onitsha three good times urging him to intervene and call the Onitsha youths to order. When that failed, I wrote a petition to the Anambra State Commissioner of Police and he minuted the petition to the Onitsha Area Commander, who in turn assigned the case to an officer. His effort ended as soon as it started. When that again failed I went to court and obtained a court order which was served on the Palace of the Obi of Onitsha, the Police and Mr. Patrick Agha Mba, chairman of Onitsha youths in charge of Ose market Motor Park.”
Despite his recourse to the law enforcement agencies, Mokwe said the youths went ahead to convert his property to a motor park as commercial bus drivers started loading there. According to him, “as this was on-going, the youths of the town intensified their threats on him which culminated in planting incriminating materials in the hotel and the trumped up charges.”
Search and arrest:
On the morning of August 1, 2013 Mokwe got to his office around 7:00am as was his routine. The difference however is that on this day when he arrived to the presence of the Police who were waiting for him. “As I made my way towards my office entrance, some policemen were already in the passage. I was taken to my office and shown a search warrant…in the process of doing that a policeman betrayed the whole adventure when he shouted to my staff to be shown room 102. It did not make sense to me at that time.
“The mock searching exercise started and ended after five minutes or thereabout at the door of room 102 with myself, the hotel manager and the receptionist and a lot of police officers. Incidentally, the lodger locked the room and left with the key around 6:30 am and a little after which the policemen showed up. The manager informed the policemen that the room was let to one Mr. John Obi in the evening of July, 31st 2013. The Receptionist brought the duplicate of the lodging receipts in addition to the hotel guest manifest and both reflected John Obi as the occupant at room 102.
“It is important to point out that the hotel guest manifest had earlier been submitted at the police station before the arrival of the policemen to the hotel. With the whereabouts of the lodger unknown, the police broke the door and made their entrance. The first thing I saw when the door was opened was an open travelling bag on the floor of the room. A lot of waterproof was inside the bag and two waterproofs on the bed. Nothing was found in the toilet and under the bed. The police then opened the wardrobe of the room and brought out one bag. Inside it was two rotten human skulls, two A.K 47 guns that looked unserviceable and two loaded magazines. I was immediately handcuffed and taken to the outside corridor of the hotel and was told to sit next to the exhibits while they took pictures. Soon after that, I along with my staff were taken to Police Area command Onitsha and paraded before the public and press.”
Incidentally, as all these happened, no mention was made of the man who had rented Room 102 the night before the search by the police. Mokwe said he found the development strange because “the lodging receipt and the guest manifest both reflected John Obi as the occupant of Room 102. The hotel guest manifest had earlier been submitted at the police station before the arrival of policemen to the hotel.”
Following the strange discovery, the Anambra State Government quickly mobilized tractors to demolish the Upper Class Hotel. The State Government has a policy that any building being used for criminal activities will be demolished. The law is part of the State Governments efforts at addressing and curtailing criminal activities.
However, the action of the state government in demolishing the hotel has generated condemnation. The network on police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN) had for example argued that “the was carried out in a hurry and illegally, as it was done before any investigation could be carried out to establish the culpability of Chief Mokwe of the allegation. The demolition was also not authorised by any court of competent jurisdiction.”
All this while, Mokwe had also maintained that he was set up. He said it is not a coincidence that the tractor used in pulling down his hotel had been parked in the vicinity of the hotel two days earlier.
Like its name suggests, the Special Anti Robbers Squad is no ordinary police station, it is a station where hardened criminals are kept. Expectedly, the experiences of Mokwe at Awkuzu are not ordinary. He said he almost died in the first days of his detention there.
“I almost died in the first two or three days at the place. Their practice there can result to the death of an innocent person or culprit. Any confessional statement emanating from SARS Awkuzu is a function of individual pain threshold. They appear to lack funding and scientific devices of any kind that will enable them isolate innocent people from criminals.
“In effect an innocent person can