…I’m suspecting all the night club owners in Abuja
TALENTED fashion designer cum club owner, David Kolawole Vanghan widely known and addressed as Dakova, is very unhappy at the moment. And the reason for his sour mood is not far-fetched: In the early hours of Saturday, June 26, 2010, his fun spot (Aristotle Champagne Lounge, inside Ceddis Plaza, Abuja) was raided by the operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), following a petition by some faceless individuals that his hangout is a narcotic joint.
The popular dress maker, who is equally doing well in his newly found business, was picked up along with few other fun seekers by the anti-drug body.
They were immediately taken to their office in Asokoro area of Abuja. While a search team was left behind. The club was thoroughly searched, but nothing incriminating was found.
Investigation showed that the place was briefly shut down, but unsealed later.
At the end of the whole investigation, the respected clothier was given a clean bill by the anti-drug agency.
In a telephone interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly’s on Saturday, July 2, 2010, Mr. David Kolawole-Vaughan spoke extensively on what led to the embarrassing scenario and more.
Your club was recently raided by NDLEA operatives, what prompted the action of the anti-drug agency? What were they looking for?
Yes, they said they got a petition from somewhere. And the petition they got was that there was a case of a girl that died in my club after doing drugs. I told them nobody died in my club. The girl was actually coming from another club in Asokoro area of the Federal Capital Territory. She went with the brother of the owner of that club. And they went to one house in Maitama and the girl died somewhere else. But my own issue is that I don’t deal in drugs, I don’t drink. If somebody now decides to write a petition to mess you up for what you don’t do…If you are not a thief and somebody calls you a thief that means the person wants to mess you up.
I never took it seriously. It was when people started calling that I realized that some people were all out to tarnish my image. I never took it as a serious matter because nothing of such happened in my club. I don’t do shady business. I am one of the few people that started the Nigeria fashion industry. I’ve done a lot of things to advance the course of the industry. Also, I’ve won several awards, so, why would I wake up now and say drug is what I want to be doing? They are saying that I’m selling drugs in the open market. It’s sad, it’s very bad. That’s the mad thing about the whole thing.
So, when they came I volunteered to follow them. I told them I’m following you o. And when I was about going to them I said they should go and search where I live. They searched everywhere, they searched my office, they didn’t find anything.
Were you the only one they arrested?
I wasn’t the only one they picked up. My manager came with us, they arrested customers but some of them resisted. It was a full house that night. They searched all the cars at the car park of the place because of the information they had. The information was that we are basically a drug spot.
I’ve had issues in the past when some of my former partners went to the police, they alleged that I defrauded them. They told them all sorts of stupid stories. The police investigated the matter and they didn’t find anything incriminating. The next thing, they went to the EFCC, EFCC came, they seized money, over N1.6 million, that was on the table. At the end of the day, EFCC realized that there was nothing there, they released everything and told me they were sorry.
When was that?
That was last year. It was when I opened Aristotle Lounge. They were trying to discredit me. And some of them said I owed them. It was a case of some set of people, quarreling with success. I said to them is it because I came from Lagos, I must not do business in Abuja?
Are you suspecting the same set of people that you had issues with in the past?
I’m suspecting the whole lot of…I’m suspecting almost all the owners of night clubs and lounges in Abuja because most of them came after me. After I opened Aristotle Champagne Lounge over 50 lounges opened in Abuja. And they all want to do champagne lounge. They didn’t know what a champagne lounge was until I opened. Now, I’m putting together a fashion lounge in Silverbird Galleria, Abuja. When I finish it they will understand what a fashion lounge is and they will start copying it.
When the men of NDLEA came, they searched your place and eventually took you away. How long did it take you to return to the lounge?
I came about two hours after. I went with them at about 9 p.m, and by 11 o’clock, the whole thing was over. They came at 4.30 a.m, the club was bubbling. They accosted military men who resisted the action. Even there was a general around, there was a commissioner of police, they resisted the move. They didn’t know where they came from. Let me tell you something as far as I’m concerned, apart from Central Bank of Nigeria, Ceddis Plaza is the most secured place in Abuja. There are over 80 security operatives in Ceddis Plaza. Police, my bouncers and the uniformed men, so, I don’t know where on earth all these people come together to do drugs and it won’t leak.
And nobody was found with drugs?
Not at all.
What about the fun seekers that were picked up along with you?
They released all of them. The NDLEA did not find anything and when they realized that I don’t have anything incriminating in my place, they told me to go. They opened my place and told me they were sorry. The only thing that I have let them realized is that they have tarnished my image and they have also spoilt my business.
There is something we want to know, immediately they arrested you, where did they take you to?
They took me to their office in Asokoro. They came with over 20 cars with guns.
Who led the operation?
I don’t know the name of the person.
A man or a woman?
A woman, she was the one that interrogated me and also effected my release.
What measures are you taking to guide against such occurrence in the future?
We have a working system in that place. I’ve just told you something now, the place has over 80 security men. There are one or two private security companies that are involved in the security activities of the place. We have men of Nigeria Police on ground and the club itself has over 20 bouncers. If we are dealing in such illicit business and there are security men around they would have made arrests inside the place. The Nigeria Police is inside the place, are they selling drugs too? That is the question we need to ask ourselves. So, what they have done is just to tarnish my image and destroy my business. Ceddis Plaza is a mall that everybody likes to patronize.
What were the comments of people around that very day?
It was obvious now, they came to take me away at 4.30am and at 7 o’clock, when they came back to search the club, people were still around. They were the ones begging people to go out of the place that they want to lock it up. Their reactions stunned the woman. She was like how can people be so loyal to you? How can people love your club so much that at 7 o’clock, they are still there? The following day the club was opened for business and it was full.
So, the club was not shut down over the issue?
At all. When they took me away, two hours after they came and drove everybody away at 7 o’clock, they shut the place, saying that they were still investigating. And by 10 o’clock, they came back again to open the place. Their intention was to find what they were looking for and shut down the place because that was the impression that the people who wrote the petition gave them. But immediately they realized that they were just working on wrong information, they told me they were sorry, that I should go. They advised me to be careful that they were acting on information given to them. They said that anytime people alert them about something, they have to do their job. One of them said they had information that one girl died in my club and I told them no girl died in my place.
Are people not scared of coming because of what transpired?
That’s the funny thing…when you have a reputation, if people know you, I know your customers, I have a close relationship with my customers. And the customers I’m talking about are quality people in terms of education, exposure and what have you. They are not just ordinary people. And most of them know me, they know that this guy doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink. They know that what happened was a kind of bad-belly. So, immediately everybody came back. This is a place where top Nigerians patronize, senators, House of Reps members, governors, ministers, this is where they come. So, they all know that some people are just all out to embarrass me.
THIS INTERVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, JULY 6, 2010