Dry and dusty wind triggered by the prevailing January 12 harmattan hit me in the face ceaselessly as James, the rider of the commercial motorcycle I mounted, veered from Mayfair Road, Ile-Ife, and entered a sloping road called Adedoyin Street.
“Well done, sir. You said you’ve come all the way from Ibadan abi? I’ve not been there in years o. I last visited Ibadan when my younger brother got married,” James said to me in Yoruba as we neared my destination. He made sure the journey remained devoid of silence till it ended.
He was a dark-complexioned man whose ebullience did not match his unenthusiastic mien. From time to time, he would release his grip of the motorcycle to gesture with his hands in an attempt to drive home a point, even while we were still in motion. I considered the act dangerous; he considered it safe.
But for the occupants of a few shops on the left side of the road James had veered into, no other significant feature caught my attention. Though tarred, the road itself was covered with tiny bits of red earth. With time, the dusts hurriedly stuck to the heels of my feet as we descended down the somewhat hilly terrain, and on to the path leading to my destination.
I soon parted ways with James and sauntered into a premises with huge iron gates painted in black.
The premises accommodated two structures majorly painted cream and brown. Apart from the colours, the first building was also covered with shiny silver panels.
As soon as I made my entrance, I greeted the security guard manning the gate. He was a dark-complexioned man that looked like he was in his early fifties.
“Ki le fe o?” the security guard asked in Yoruba, taking a few cautious steps towards where I stood.
I quickly responded to him, saying I needed an accommodation for the night.
Rather than show me to who I could talk to on what I sought, the guard told me to wait at the entrance.
It was at this point that I realised that James was still very close to the premises as well. He later made me understand that after he dropped me off, he waited to clean his motorcycle.
The guard soon entered the “shiny” building through a door that led to what looked like a reception. After consulting with a man, whose face I could not make out from my position, he emerged from the reception and told me that “all rooms were occupied”.
I instantly knew this was a lie but there was no way I could have insisted on spending a night at a hotel that was not willing to accommodate me. As soon as the guard broke the news to me, he walked towards the gate to return to his position. I feigned disappointment and followed him.
He then recommended that I visit another hotel that was not too far from where we were to me.
“Once you get to that junction, turn to your right; you’ll find another hotel there. It is just down the street,” he said.
When I asked whether that was how the hotel was always “busy”, he nodded in the affirmative.
As I left his presence, I knew the guard had just lied to me. From the five minutes I spent inside the premises, I knew the hotel was not totally occupied. To an extent, I could also say it had no occupant at all. Though it was obviously open for business, it was also clear the entire place was deserted. The compound had no single vehicle in it and there was also no activity to show that it had accommodated guests.
The name of the place is Excellence Hall, and it belongs to Rahmon Adedoyin, the renowned Ile-Ife businessman who is currently standing trial for the murder of Timothy Adegoke, an Obafemi Awolowo University master’s student, who had died under mysterious circumstances in November 2021.
Adegoke, an Abuja-based chartered accountant, had travelled to Ile-Ife on November 5, 2021, to write his MBA exams at the OAU Distance Learning Centre.
He was declared missing on November 7, 2021. Later, his body was found in a shallow grave at a location very close to Hilton Hotel and Resorts, where he had been accommodated.
Standing trial in the case are Rahmon Adedoyin, the owner of the hotel, and six of his staff.
When the incident became public knowledge, Hilton Hotel and Resorts and all other hotels owned by Adedoyin were shut down.
A year and a few months down the line, and despite the fact that the case is still ongoing, one of the hotels that were earlier shut down has been reopened. The reopened hotel was the one I visited. ‘Hilton Hotels and Resort’ has been changed to ‘Excellence Hall’.
REVELATIONS DURING THE TRIAL
After Adegoke’s body was found in a shallow grave at a location very close to Hilton Hotel and Resorts, an autopsy was conducted on him. In his testimony, Waheed Oluogun, leader of a team of pathologists that conducted the examination, told a High Court sitting in Osogbo, Osun State, on November 22, 2021, that the master’s student’s death was caused by severe haemorrhage secondary to severe traumatic injury.
After a year-long trial on the student’s murder, a huge revelation was made when Adesola Adedeji, one of the hotel receptionists who was on duty on the night Adegoke died, testified.
In her testimony, Adedeji said the student’s name was removed from the hotel’s guest record in order to cover the fact that he was lodged at the hotel.
Adesola said she had received an accommodation payment of N38,000 from Adegoke, and that the deceased had stayed in room 305.
Adedeji also said that after Adegoke died, she was called to a meeting by Roheem Adedoyin, the managing director of the hotel, and was instructed to fabricate another receipt which would not reflect the name of the late student.
The receptionist added that Roheem, who is the son of Rahmon Adedoyin, the owner of the hotel, instructed her to replace the late student’s name with “Adewale Lekan and receipt number 7316”.
The charges brought against Adedoyin are attempted felony, conspiracy, unlawful interference with Adegoke’s corpse, tampering with the hotel’s receipt and CCTV camera with the intent to destroy evidence that would prove that the victim visited the hotel.
Before this however, Wale Olokode, the Osun State Commissioner of Police, had stated that Roheem supervised the hurried burial of the deceased in a shallow grave without notifying the police.
“During interrogation, one of the suspects confessed that Roheem, the managing director of the hotel, who is also the son of Rahmon Adedoyin, organised for the corpse to be taken to the bush,” Olokode said.
“The staff members did not inform the police. It was through the report of a missing person that the anti-kidnapping team was able to discover and trace Adegoke to that hotel. The trace was then extended to where the corpse was eventually found.”
Roheem’s whereabouts remain unknown as he is yet to be arrested by the police.
INFERENCES FROM THE VISIT TO EXCELLENCE HOTEL
After I was refused entry to the hotel, I asked myself so many questions as I left the vicinity. Why would the hotel choose to turn me away, despite being open for business? Why would whoever is in charge tell me that all rooms had been occupied when that wasn’t true? Could it be that Excellence Hall is only exclusively opened to known and loyal customers? How many prospective customers (like me) get turned away by the hotel’s management on a daily basis? Why would the management even choose to reopen it in the first place while Timothy Adegoke’s murder trial is still ongoing? More importantly, why the name change?
To answer some of these questions, I decided to talk to O. O. Nwani, a Lagos State-based lawyer who specialises in criminal law.
“Well, legally speaking, the hotel can be reopened once the police have finished conducting their investigation. Now, the explanation I have just given you is even in the event that the hotel you visited was the actual place where the crime was committed,” Nwani said.
“The truth is, the hotel being talked about now is not even where the crime was committed. It is only taking a hit because it is owned by a man being tried for an alleged murder. So, it is not actually a crime if its management decides to reopen it.
“However, and morally speaking, such acts is always deemed as insensitive in this part of the world. You can’t be standing trial for the murder of a customer who allegedly died in your hotel and still think it is okay to have one of your other hotels functioning.
“Such acts would always be frowned at.”
WHO IS TIMOTHY ADEGOKE?
Timothy was born on August 4, 1984, in Eruwa, Ibarapa East Local Government Area, Oyo State. He attended Ifelodun Primary School and Baptist Model High School in the same state.
The late Timothy then proceeded to The Polytechnic, Ibadan, for his tertiary education.
On completion of his mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Abuja, he got a job with the Xiamen Win Stone, a professional Chinese granite, slate, and quartz stone supplier from Xiamen, China, where he rose to become the company’s director of finance.
He was pursuing an MBA in accounting at OAU when he first went missing, before he was later found dead.
He was described as a quiet and easy-going person. He was also the breadwinner for not just his immediate family, but also his aged parents and siblings.
At school, colleagues in his class described him as a problem solver who was quite accommodating and friendly.
He left behind a wife and three children.
PRESENT STATE OF THINGS
Since the murder trial began in November 2021, several witnesses, including the staff members of Hilton Hotel and Resorts, pathologists, forensic experts and investigating officers have given testimonies in court.
After Adedeji’s testimony, Justice Adepele Ojo, the trial judge and Chief Judge of Osun State, adjourned sitting until February 23.
It is the hope of Adegoke’s family members and friends that their son’s killer is brought to justice. Whether this would come to fruition or not, the coming days will tell.
Two things stood out from the conversation I had with Barrister Nwanni: the legality of the reopening of one of Rahmon Adedoyin’s hotels, and whether such actions are morally right or wrong.
Whether morally right or wrong, Excellence Hall, formerly known as Hilton Hotels and Resorts, has been reopened.
This report was produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation
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