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Murder in hotel room: Abuja lawyer assassinated, family insists

...Queries release of alleged accomplice

Police say, ‘It’s robbery’

Joy Anyim

The family of Abuja-based lawyer, Mrs. Feyisayo Obot, who was murdered in her hotel room during a trip to Lagos is seeking  an in-depth probe into the gruesome death, which they alleged was premeditated.

The Nigerian Xpress had reported the murder of the 41-year-old mother of two in Citiheights Hotel on 6 Sheraton Link Road, Opebi, Ikeja in last week’s edition.

The deceased’s elder brother, Ige Afolabi, who spoke exclusively to The Nigerian Xpress correspondent, revealed that the suspect, Joshua Usulor, had initially told the police that a man, Richard Ajayi, had sent him to kill the lawyer.

Afolabi said the suspect had also disclosed to the police that he was given the deceased’s picture, money and other details to facilitate the job.

He said the family was also surprised that Ajayi, who had earlier been arrested by the police, was left out of the information about the incident that the police released to the public.

Afolabi also raised the concern about alleged shoddy investigation by the police, saying the suspect might have been threatened to tell a different story from what he had earlier told the police about the murder being a hit job.

He maintained that whoever was behind the murder must have known Feyisayo was coming to Lagos, the hotel she lodged in  and her room number.

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“I will want to set the record straight.  Feyisayo was 41 years old, her office made the hotel reservation. She was the last child in the family of nine. She was based in Abuja, married with two kids. She came to Lagos for a project management professional examination.

“She was the national admin manager for Save the Children. I think she had called the

cause her office uses the hotel regularly.

“I did not even know she was around because she did not inform me. She had only told her husband she wanted to concentrate for the exam so she would not call any family member in Lagos. Her decision was because that was the second time she was writing the exam. The first time in 2018, she failed because family and friends were visiting her and taking her out. We were a distraction then, so this time, she wanted to study well.

“To us, the murder is suspicious. The police was too quickly to go to the press without informing us that they had concluded investigation. We had expected the police to inform us before making the matter public. I was shocked when I read the police account because that was not the true story.

“Usulor had earlier said that it was someone that gave him the picture of my sister and money to kill her. He said the deal was reached in a yellow painted commercial bus and the police told me that. Why will they all of a sudden change the whole story to N26,000 robbery?” he asked.

Speaking further, Afolabi who was the only family member present when Feyisayo’s body was discovered in the hotel room said, “The police are not being straightforward with this investigation. They had arrested Ajayi, who Usulor said sent him to do the hit job and the police have been silent about his involvement in the crime. I saw Ajayi who confirmed to me that he knows Usulor.

“The DCP, State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID), had told me she thinks there is no other suspect, but Usulor. She said Usulor was trying to rope in Ajayi.

“Although I don’t see any connection between my sister and Ajayi for now, I will also want the police to give me evidence that Ajayi is actually innocent of the allegation. Because for me, the way my sister was killed it wouldn’t have been a robbery gone bad. She was killed the same day she was to leave for Abuja. Usulor was on the third floor of the hotel, while she was on the fifth floor.”

“The knife that was used in the murder was not a table knife, it was a premeditated murder. If the police are saying the suspect is a notorious hotel robber, then how many hotels has he robbed, let them investigate how true his claims are.

“If the suspect is saying he met my sister at the lobby and they exchanged contact, I want to see the CCTV footage proving that, because I know my sister very well. She could not have given a stranger her room number. Is it also coincidental that the guy in the CCTV room in the hotel was going to do routine checks around the hotel when the murder happened? I read the suspect said he helped her fix the sink but when I entered the room the day we found her dead in her room, the sink was clean no stain from stagnant water.

“Should the police not ask why she never cared about the repair all along but suddenly wanted help to repair it the morning she was leaving?”

Asked if the family is suspecting anyone to be behind the murder, Afolabi said the family could not think of anyone who would want to hurt them. He, however, said the police should also extend their investigation to Feyisayo’s office as it could have been an insider job.

“Right now we don’t even know who is safe. All we want as a family is justice. We even suspect this whole arrangement could have been from her place of work. For the suspect to have known the hotel she lodged and her room number, that is suspicious. I don’t believe his claim that she gave him her room number. I guess he gained access to the room by claiming to be a hotel staff.

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“The police should also look at the CCTV footage, which I have seen. This whole scenario did not last up to seven minutes. He did it and left almost immediately. I would have expected the police to go to the suspect’s house to search if they would find any other incriminating evidence. Instead, they just messed the case up.”

He also revealed the police had told him to come forward with any other evidence he thought could further prove the assassination suspicion right.

“I spoke with the Officer in Charge of Homicide Section of SCID who said if I had any other evidence, I should come forward with it, that this is the best they could do.

“I even went to the room the suspect had lodged and asked for the cleaner who cleaned the room after the guy checked out of the hotel. The cleaner revealed there was heavy blood stains at every corner of the room, even the curtain and sink. I suspect Usulor may have been threatened into telling the story he is trying to make us believe. I believe there is more to this crime,” he said.

The Nigerian Xpress also visited the hotel where the crime was committed twice for the Management’s comments, but the security men said there was no one available to talk to a journalist.

On the first visit a security man was on duty who said, “Madam, just come back in the evening or tomorrow because everybody went out for a meeting.”

On the second visit, three security men were on duty. One of them who spoke to the correspondent said, “The manager and all the senior staff travelled. If you can come back next week, they should be around by then.”

It was, however, noticed that the hotel had continued normal business as some guests were seen arriving into the premises.

Obot had flown into Lagos on January 23 and lodged at Citiheights Hotel.

At the hotel, the lawyer was said to have paid N30,000 for lodging per night for three nights, hoping to travel back to her base on January 26, 2019.

She was, however, murdered in her hotel room by a 21-year-old Joshua Usulor, said to be a chef.

Usulor was alleged to have lodged in the same hotel, paid for two nights – January 23 and 24. He, however, extended his stay for another two days to perfect his plan.

Lagos Police public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, had issued a statement, alleging that the suspect whose primary objective was to rob the deceased, stabbed Obot in the stomach and also slit her throat with a knife.

“The suspect said he was motivated to rob the deceased to enable him offset his hotel bill having spent two days above the one day he paid for.

“To execute his plans, he claimed to have sneaked into the deceased’s room to steal her money and her phones but the deceased struggled with him but was overpowered. He then stabbed her with a sharp knife on the stomach and used the same knife to slit her throat. Satisfied that the woman was dead, he  made away with her phones and a cash sum of  twenty six thousand naira (N26,000) only,” the police statement reads in part.

A police source had told The Nigerian Xpress that Usulor was a serial hotel robber, robbing guests in big hotels in Ikeja and Victoria Island.

Another source, however, suggested the suspect might be a hired assassin.

The alleged killer, according to the source, had planned the crime for about one week. “A CCTV footage that was given to the police showed that the suspect had earlier lodged in the hotel on January 15, 2019. He had used the name Adebayo Adedeji to check in then. On his second visit,  he checked in with the name Joshua Usulor.”

The Nigerian Xpress correspondent also gathered that the suspect, native of Ebonyi State worked with one Biscco 77 Restaurant in Victoria Island.

He earned N60,000 as his monthly take home, and had been on leave without pay since January due to renovation work going on at the restaurant.

In his confessional statement, the suspect claimed he paid N45,000 for two nights at the hotel.

Narrating how he killed Obot, the suspect said, “I met the lady on January 23, 2019 at the hotel lobby. We spoke briefly and parted ways. I met her the second day being January 24, 2019, and we spoke at length and exchanged contact.  She told me her room number was room 501. I promised to pay her a visit at my free time and she accepted.

“On January 26, 2019, I went to her room, knocked on the door and she asked who was that and I told her it was me. She opened her door and I entered.  We started chatting to fix it. When I checked, I discovered it was blocked so I helped her fix it.   to fix it. When I checked, I discovered it was blocked so I helped her fix it.

“After fixing it, she went in to see if it was okay. At that point I went to her table and picked the N26,000 on it. She saw me and asked why I picked the money, I told her not to question me but she was raising her voice. I immediately picked a knife on her table and stabbed her in the stomach. I also slit her throat.

“When I noticed she had stopped breathing, I took her two phones and hurried out of the room. I went to my room quickly packed my things and checked out of the hotel.

“I was owing the hotel over N40,000 and I had to pay them part of it with the N26,000 I got from Obot. Because that was not my first time there, I told them I will balance up some other time. They requested I drop something  as collateral. I gave them the two phones I had collected from Obot. The agreement was that when I pay, I will collect the phones, so I left.”

Obot’s death became public knowledge after family members who had been trying to reach her could not get across to her on phone almost all day.

Sensing danger, the family had contacted a relative in Lagos who went to the hotel to find out if the deceased was okay. It was when the hotel staff and the family member got to the room that they found her in the pool of her own blood.

Thinking he had escaped being caught,  Usulor had also destroyed his SIM card and bought a new line to avoid being tracked through his phone number.

He, however, met his Waterloo when crack detectives from the State Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department (SCIID) trailed him to his hideout in Victoria Island.

Speaking on how he was arrested, he said,  “I met one Mrs Ifeoma via social media and she claimed to work at Intercontinental Hotel. I told her I was looking for a better job as a chef. She promised to help me once any opportunity comes up.

“She called me recently and told me to come to Intercontinental Hotel for a job opening, which I did. While I was sitting there, a police team came and said I was under arrest for murder. I did not argue with them because I know I did it.”

Asked who hired him to do the hit job,  the suspect said, “Nobody sent me to kill the woman. I just killed her myself.”

The family of the deceased, however, still maintained that the suspect might have been contracted to murder her.

Although the suspect has been charged to the Ebute-Metta Magistrate Court and remanded at the Ikoyi prison, the police said the case will be taken to the High Court as soon as Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) gives legal advice.

It was also gathered that the remains of the deceased had been flown to Abuja and laid to rest.