Dr Steve Ihedigbo MFR, the Chairman and CEO of Royal Hotel Damgrete has alleged that there was conspiracy in the death of an Air Force cadet who was reported found dead inside the swimming pool of the hotel in Umuahia, Abia State.

Dr Steve gave the allegation on Saturday while answering questions surrounding the matter from newsmen in Umuahia.

On Tuesday 9th September 2024,it was reported that the Air Force cadet Chidiebere Onyemereche, visited Umuahia with his friend, and allegedly drowned inside the swimming pool of the hotel. The deceased was found inside the 14 feet area of the swimming pool in the hotel.

Dr Steve also revealed that during the course of investigation, his staff
Victor Sunday (Maintenance staff),
Cynthia Mbah(Pool Waitress) and
James Etubi(F&B Manager) was invited for questioning in the cause of the investigation, James Etubi his food and beverage manager
was allegedly beaten to death in the military From the ADP facility in the state.

In his words: ”So, the next day, they went back to ADP and interrogations continued. I was told that after the interrogation they were ordered to be beaten and they started beating them. The most unfortunate thing was that the other cadet who came with the deceased and should be the prime suspect, was among those beating my staff.

” I was told they concentrated on my Food and Beverage Manager, Mr James Etubi. They beat him to a pulp. Unfortunately, he was the man that was supposed to give us evidence because he was in charge of the pool side.

“He was there when everything happened but they just killed him for reasons I don’t know. They were hitting him at the neck and head. When he died, they put him in a tricycle with others and took them to the hospital where he was just confirmed dead. “

The deceased staff, James Etubi was said to be employed on 5th of April, 2024 a couple of days before the incident happened.

Narrating the ordeal, Dr Steve said when he got the call from his manager about a missing person in his hotel, he arrived at the hotel that evening and the search began with the company of the police and DSS officers present at the hotel. He also revealed that the deceased Air force cadet came into the hotel another person who swam in the pool but the deceased didn’t swim due to water fobia. But the alarm was raised by the friend of the deceased as they began the search.

” When I got the call I quickly drove down to the hotel and went directly to the pool side. When I got there I was told that the boy did not jump inside the swimming pool.

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” They were going outside to check whether he went outside or inside the toilet. Up till around 8 pm he was not found but I was told they started looking for him since 5:00pm.

” About nine police men were already there when I got to the pool side. Everybody was searching for the boy. Fire service men were called and they brought their vehicle and lather.

” The father of the deceased also came and told me that his son should be released, and I told him that I don’t understand what was going on. He told me that his son’s colleague said his son did not swim.

” So, there was confusion. But we called three divers who went into the pool to search for him, and they found him and brought him out. Everybody was surprised that he did not look like somebody who drowned because his tummy was very flat. No water was coming out from the mouth or nose. Everybody including security agencies and his father was very surprised.

” Then the police took him to the mortuary. His father told us there was nothing he could do, adding that he has been seeing this type of thing.”

“I’m not a small boy, at 70 years or age, I’m supposed to know a person who is drowned in water, his tommy was as flat as anything, no water was coming out from his nose or mouth, before the police took him to the mortuary. Even the father was surprised and concluded that his son wasn’t drowned.” Dr Steve said.

Dr Steve also revealed that for the past 24 years he has been into the hotel business, he has never encountered such experience while calling on various security agencies involved in the matter to carry out thorough investigation to unravel the death of the Air Force cadet and Justice for his staff allegedly beaten to death by the military. He also volunteered to take up the medical bills for the autopsy of the deceased Air Force cadet and his late staff.

Responding to the question on the security of the hotel as regards the use of Close Circuit Television , CCTV, he said some of the CCTV cameras were affected by a recent heavy rain and thunderstorm, and had not been repaired before the incident.

According to him, his Manager who had been sick later went to the Army base at ADP where she was interrogated till late evening but released with an instruction to bring the other three staff unfailingly by 8:00am the next day for questioning.

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Dr Ihedigbo lamented that his other workers tortured alongside the victim, were yet to recover from the beating by the Army.

” One of my staff, a lady has been taken to the hospital and the other man is very sick because of the beating.”

The hotel owner alleged that the other cadet that came to the hotel with the deceased officer was related to the wife of a senior police officer at the Central Police Station, CPS, Umuahia, insisting that nobody should be shielded.

” Yesterday, I went to ADP, and I saw him but he is the person who should be the principal suspect. I was told that the deceased cadet officer even paid for both of them.

” He was the one who deceived everybody, saying that his friend was outside while he was being searched for. He said his friend did not enter the pool. So, for three hours, he deceived everybody. We were looking for him outside without knowing he was inside the pool.”

Responding to an inquiry on whether the cadet officer and his friend came to lodge in the hotel, Dr Ihedigbo said “they came to swim and drink, not to lodge”.

Asked if the Close Circuit Television , CCTV, camera of the hotel captured happenings at the pool side, he said some of the CCTV cameras were affected by a recent heavy rain and thunderstorm, and had not been repaired before the incident.

Dr Ihedigbo, who said he had already petitioned the Chief of Army Staff, demanded thorough and dispassionate investigation to unravel what exactly happened.

He also demanded justice both for the deceased cadet officer and his staff who died while he was allegedly being tortured by soldiers.

” I want justice served, and let the perpetrators of this crime be brought to book. I want this to be properly addressed by the Army headquarters.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army, has ordered investigations into the matter.

A statement by the Director, Army Public Relations, Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the Chief of Army Staff, had ordered comprehensive investigation into the matter.

The Army registered its concern over the incident and condoled with the families of the deceased.

The statement read:”The Nigerian Army (NA) is deeply concerned by the alleged unprofessional conduct of some of its personnel in the tragic death of a hotel manager in Umuahia, Abia State, as reported in some online media.

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