Nigerians say complaints made about hotel were ‘lies and propaganda’
The controversy surrounding 87 Nigerians here under the Delta State Youth Empowerment Programme has taken a new twist, with some of them charging that recent damning complaints about their accommodations at the Casa Grande hotel and other issues were “lies and propaganda”.
Godspower Omorida, Victor Olugbo, Peter Kekeh, Douglas Okoleugbo and Ezeanah Pascal declared it was time to speak out to safeguard the programme which they fear is in jeopardy because of the actions of less than ten of their colleagues who they say appeared bent on disrupting the educational initiative.
“False accusations which they made [in the] media, not only in Barbados but outside to Nigeria, were just propaganda and lies. They are just there to cause a scene so that the programme crashes,” charged Olugbo.
“There are some good students who are here to study, there are others that are not here for study, there are others who want to crash this programme, so those that are going to the media speculating all sort of nonsense, we are not part of them and we have never been part of them.”
A week after arriving on the island last December, there were reports that the students were disgusted with their accommodations at Casa Grande in Oldbury, St Philip.
They had complained about inadequate meals, lack of air conditioning units and televisions in their rooms and, in one instance, students claimed there was no water and they had to use buckets to dip water from the pool to bathe.
But in a shocking revelation, the five students told Barbados TODAY their disgruntled colleagues had turned off the water and gone into the pool with buckets to get attention.
When contacted this evening, hotel owner Mrs Ram Mirchandani also made the allegation and told Barbados TODAY she was planning to take legal action following damaging reports about her property.
The five students were adamant that while there were challenges at the hotel initially, the owner had moved quickly to rectify their concerns.
“They are feeding us breakfast, lunch and dinner. We are [getting] US$500 every month. This Casa Grande hotel is the best we have stayed in since the hotel we stayed in Nigeria, the hotel we stayed in Trinidad. This is the best hotel,” said Olugbo.
Asked why they waited until now to come forward, the students said they had been awaiting the directive from Nigerian authorities before speaking to the media.
The group also made it clear that they would not be drawn into the apparent dispute between the facilitator of the programme Donna St Hill and Sharon Brathwaite, the former local coordinator of the initiative.
“Sharon didn’t do anything wrong to us. When Ms Hill was absent she took care of us, but she [Sharon] and her employer fell out. Our government says it is Ms Hill they have business with. We don’t want to be dragged into it,” said Omorida.
Hill suspended Brathwaite earlier this month, and last weekend, some of the students called for her reinstatement in a five-page letter issued by their attorney Douglas Trotman and R.E Guyson Mayers, the attorney-at-law for Brathwaite.
Okoleugbo has urged his colleagues to “call themselves to order” and not to put the programme in danger.
“Don’t drag the name of my country, the state, the name of Donna St Hill or the programme through mud,” he pleaded.
“We are not crying. Those who are crying know why they are crying and I want to tell the people of Barbados and beyond that they don’t represent the interests of all the Nigerians that are here. It is just a fraction that have formed by themselves that came up with these ideas . . . I think it has come to a point where we [have to] stand and let the world, and whoever has received the information, know that they don’t represent the interest of all the students.”
Appealing to the Barbados Government not to allow the behaviour of a few to destabilize the progamme that would bring tremendous benefits to Nigeria, Omorida said:
“Delta State is an oil-rich state and a lot of us youth . . . want to work in the oil industry. So the government thought it was wise to diversify the economy and that is why they sent us down here to acquire skills, especially knowing that Barbados has one of the most thriving tourism industries in the world. So we wanted to see how we could diversify our economy, that is our purpose here, but some people among us – we don’t know who they represent, we don’t know who send them – they have continued to create problems for us.”
Kekeh assured that they were peaceful students interested in developing new skills and learning Barbadian culture.
“We are begging the Barbados Government to have patience with us and don’t take action against us and we are very appreciative for all they have done.
“We want to assure every single citizen of Barbados, and even our host, that we are peaceful people and of course we are committed to abide by the laws of this country. We are not here to cause issues, we are here to maintain and even improve diplomatic relations between Barbados and Nigeria,” Pascal added.