The owner of demolished Prodest Hotel in Eleme, Rivers State, Mr Promise Gogorobari, speaks with CHUKWUDI AKASIKE about the effect of Governor Nyesom Wike’s action on his family and other related issues
How did you receive the news of your hotel’s demolition?
One of my relatives called me on Saturday at 10pm and told me that the Governor of Rivers State had said my hotel and one other hotel would be demolished. I asked him what happened. I asked the question because I had previously issued an instruction to lock up the hotel. I had already sent away about 70 percent of my staff. Only the manager and two others remained, just for the purpose of protecting the property.
When I asked what happened, I was informed that the Eleme youth leader and some members of task force had a misunderstanding within the environment. I don’t know what transpired between the two groups, but the next thing I heard was that the hotel had been affected. Some people even started saying the youth leader and his men were operating in the hotel, which was not true.
I wonder how I got affected since I had already instructed my employees to go home. All of a sudden, somebody started saying that the owner of the place was an Eleme guy. I had to explain that the owner of the hotel was not an indigene of Eleme. I told them that I, an Ogoni man, owned it.
To the best of my knowledge, the hotel was under lock and key. It was not operating as of the time of the demolition. So, I don’t get it when they said I violated the law. If people reported an issue to you, as a law-abiding citizen the best approach to this was to do an investigation into the matter, which must be within 24 hours. Unfortunately there was no investigation, no court orders, nothing. The next thing was to demolish the hotel. I don’t think that was the proper way to approach the matter.
How are your relatives coping with the development?
Everybody in my family is unhappy about what happened. In fact, the most painful part of it is how my parents have reacted to the development. Both of them broke down after they heard about the incident in Eleme. I am very worried about this as I am talking to you.
Which is your local government area of origin?
I am from Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State. My parents live there, while I am based in Lagos. I speak with them on the telephone every day and they are aware of everything has happened.
When did you purchase the land on which you built Prodest Hotel and why did you decide to establish a hotel?
I purchased the land in 2012 and I started building the hotel between 2012 and 2013 or thereabout. I have operated in that place for more than five years. My goal was just to take theyouths off the streets so that families can take care of other needs. I am helping the government in a way. I don’t think it was a bad idea.
It was alleged that a party was held in the hotel?
There was no party in the hotel. I don’t even have a radio in that hotel to play music. It is just a little bar and some rooms. The bar was just for drinks. So, how is that (holding a party) possible?
With your hotel gone, can you cope financially?
By God’s grace, I will survive. It’s not the end of life. God will sustain me and my family.
Do you intend to go to court?
For now, I don’t have anything to say about that. I am just seeking advice from left, right and centre. I may make a decision before the end of the day. For now, I cannot do anything.
Many people believe you must be very bitter about what happened.
I’m not really angry. It is just that I feel things were not done the proper way. A proper investigation ought to have been carried out to get at the root of the matter. They should have fined the person guilty of the offence or seal off the place, which is not out of place, instead of demolishing my hotel. I am a law-abiding citizen and I will not violate any law. Within 24 hours an issue was reported to you and you did not order an investigation. Nothing was done. The next thing you did was to pull down the hotel.
You seem to be quite aggrieved. Would you consider forgiving the governor for his action?
Who am I not to forgive him? I don’t hold any grudge against him. I just feel that God wanted it to happen that way.
What business do you do in Lagos?
I am just managing myself here anyway.
How many workers did you employ at the hotel?
The manager should be able to get the total number of persons working with him. He has worked there since I opened that place. I let him run the place and give me reports. I may not know what every employee is doing because I have a manager and he should be able to answer some questions.
How often did you visit the place?
The last time I visited there should be three months ago.
Is it true that the PDP youth leader in Eleme allegedly sent thugs to attack members of the state task force team that came to enforce the lockdown order at the hotel?
I am not aware of that. When I called them (my workers), they didn’t tell me anything like that happened in the hotel.
Have you been able to find out what really happened?
I found out that it was outside on the road, not even in the hotel, maybe they misinformed him (the governor). Anyway, that’s how I just look at it; misinformation.
What can government do to make you happy again?
I won’t start judging government or what they should do for me. The government knows all. This person is helping in every angle of life. He has contributed to the growth and economy of Rivers State and is willing to assist in building the state. I don’t have any problem with that.
What is your message to investors in Rivers State?
Rivers is our dear state. I won’t encourage anybody to stop doing business in the state. Everybody knows it is a place to invest in. So I won’t discourage anybody who wants to invest in the state.
Can you give a rough estimate of how much it cost you to complete the hotel, in terms of the land and the entire structure?
Before I do that, I need to send a request to the estate valuers to provide the exact figure. I don’t have it offhand.
Do you have the Certificate of Occupancy for the land on which you built the hotel?
I have the business registration document. The C of O is still being processed. I think it is not out yet. I have all the documents that relates to the land.