Sex Scandal: All Eyes On House Leadership | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Sex Scandal: All Eyes On House Leadership

Posted: Jun 20, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ahmed Musa

Abuja-   Nigerians are waiting to  see how the  leadership of the  House of Representatives will handle the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against three lawmakers by the United States.

Though the House has agreed to investigate, the affected lawmakers have continue to maintain their innocence, while alleging conspiracy by the West.

Hon. Mark Tesser Gbillah (APC, Benue) who is one the three accused lawmakers contented that; “Although it is very easy to obtain the previous travel history and track record of accused members, it is obvious the US State Department and the US Embassy have presumed our guilt without proper investigation because of the disdain and disrespect they have towards the average Nigerian citizen even when such citizens are Members of the Nigerian House of Representatives, a treatment they will never mete out to an ordinary American citizen who is not even a member of the US Congress”.

Also, Hon. Mohammed  Garba Gololo, who was alleged to have grabbed a housekeeper, in his letter to the ambassador, which was copied to the speaker warned the diplomat of the consequences of his petition.

He said “there is the example of Mr. Strauss (Dominic Strauss Khan), the former managing director of the IMF (and a Presidential aspirant in France), who was involved in similar allegations, but the evidence was clearly brought showing what he did in the hotel room. So, I demand video or any similar evidence of my alleged misbehaviour”.

Gololo in the letter dated 13th June, 2016 and titled: Re: Allegations over troubling behaviour at Cleveland, Ohio” said “May I remind your excellency, of the recent case in your country where the great wrestler Hulk Hogan was similarly falsely accused and he went to court and got $140m in damages. Gawker has applied for bankruptcy because of the case”.

This suspicion of conspiracy is further accentuated by the haste in which the US Embassy withdrew the travelling visas of the affected lawmakers who, entitled to fair hearing by way of invitation for questioning, as part of the investigation to establish their innocence or guilt.  Analysts are asking, How does a man stay in Nigeria and clear his name of a crime he allegedly committed in the US? Is the decision to withdraw their visas the preferred punitive measure the US States Department deemed fit for offences bothering on attempted rape, sexual harassment and unlawful soliciting of sex from hotel parking attendants if a thorough investigation had been done with concrete evidence obtained?

The lawmakers also in the letters to the embassy complained of restricted access and exposure to legislative practice and Privileges by the organisers of the leadership training programme as well as lack of diligence by officials of the State’s Department regarding a complaint of fraud suffered by one of the MPs to the tune of a $100.

In Ghillah’s letter of protest, he said: “In your letter you claimed that I was identified as one of the members of the aforementioned group who asked for the assistance of a hotel parking attendant to solicit for prostitutes at the Residence Inn Downtown Cleveland Ohio. I am extremely shocked, upset, irked and embarrassed by your letter and want to categorically state that these allegations are completely false, unfounded, malicious and a calculated attempt to malign and cast aspersions on my reputation and character as a Nigerian citizen and Honourable Member of the House of Representatives and to bring disrepute to the hallowed institution of the National Assembly and the entire nation of Nigeria”.
He informed that “a member of our group made a formal complaint to the organisers of the program about his being defrauded to the tune of about $100 at the Renaissance Hotel Dupont Circle Washington DC but neither the US State Department or the US Embassy in Nigeria has deemed it fit to take any actions or initiate any investigation in this regard”.

“Members of the group also expressed their dissatisfaction, displeasure and disappointment with the organisers of the program over their inability to organise a single meeting with any member of the US congress and constraining members to meet with only one State Representative and several County Representatives and officials contrary to the initial objectives of the program. Perhaps there are other underlying reasons behind the lacklustre attitude of the US State Department and the US Embassy towards ensuring proper investigation of these allegations”, he alleged.

He said in view of the damage done to him, he intends to “institute legal action in the United States against the Marriot Hotel Brand, the Cleveland Council of World Affairs and the US State Department requesting for damages, comprehensive investigation of these allegations to exonerate myself and a formal globally publicised apology”.

Gbillah also demanded “that the US Embassy and the US State Department (regardless of your revocation of my US visa) allow me to travel to Cleveland even at my own expense to confront my accuser and confirm my innocence. I otherwise have no desire to travel to a country that appears to pay only lip service to the ideals they claim to uphold.
He further demand the full video/cctv footage covering the period of their entire stay at the hotel; saying that “this should clearly show the movements and activities of every member of the group throughout the hotel”.
In his reaction, Hon. Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) who was also accused of soliciting for prostitute said? in a short message that “I wish to state unequivocally that this is false and definitely not me”.
“This to me, is a case of mistaken identity and I have already instituted measures both legally and diplomatically to clear my name and the institution I represent”
Negative Antecedents:

Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) in a protest letter he wrote to the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle who petitioned the leadership of the House to ignite the scandal  said: “I have visited the US and several countries in the world countless times over the last several years and have stayed at countless hotels all over the world and want to dare the US government to find any instance where I have previously solicited for prostitutes from a hotel employee even when I was not a married man”.

Barring all restraining circumstances, the leadership of the House has insisted it is investigating the allegation even when the lawmakers in question have had their travelling visas to the US revoked. The leadership in reacting to the scandal at a briefing through chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas confirmed that the matter was being investigated to determine its authenticity or otherwise.
He said: “Ten of our members went to Cleveland, Ohio, US to participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program on good governance in April. However, we are in receipt of a letter from the Ambassador of US where he alleged that some of the members were involved in a misconduct”.

The remaining lawmakers who were on the controversial trip include: Hon. Gaza Jonathan Gbefwi (PDP-Nasarawa State), Hon. Danburam Abubakar Nuhu (APC-Kano State), Hon. Nkole Uko Ndukwe (PDP-Abia State), Hon. Rita Orji (PDP-Lagos State), Hon. Ayo Huliyat Omidiran (APC-Osun)
Namdas said: “As a responsible parliament, the leadership has received this letter and is doing its own investigation. When investigations are concluded, we will brief you further”.
The House spokesman insisted that the members under investigation were not guilty and must not be treated so until proven otherwise adding that they have not been convicted by any court of law.
The spokesman however could not disclose the mode of the investigation, who constitutes the investigative panel and when it will commence.

Meanwhile Speaker Yakubu dogara in reaction to a barrage of questions on his twitter handle on Saturday reiterated the resolve of the House to get to the bottom of the issue.
Dogara revealed that the House would handle the investigation in collaboration with officials of the US embassy, saying;  “together with the US Embassy in Nigeria, we will get to the bottom of this matter”.
The understandably maintained the innocence of his colleagues, saying apart from the letter sent to his office, no other concrete evidence of culpability has been provided by the US embassy.