Sex Scandal: Intrigues As Reps Accuse US Govt Of Hidden Agenda | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Sex Scandal: Intrigues As Reps Accuse US Govt Of Hidden Agenda

Posted: Jul 21, 2016 at 6:26 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ahmed Musa

Abuja – There was a new twist to the allegation of sexual misconduct brought against three members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday following a counter allegation that the US Embassy and by extension the US government had a pre-determined motive for selecting the ten lawmakers for the leadership programme which held in April without passing through proper diplomatic channel.

This disclosure was made on Wednesday by all three accused representatives (Hon. Mark Gbillah, Samuel Ikon and Mohammed Gololo) in their separate submissions to the joint Committees of Ethics and Privileges and Foreign Affairs carrying out the investigation.

The accused lawmakers said the speculation regarding the US Embassy and the Home Office having a hidden agenda became inevitable given the manner in which they handled the travelling arrangements by not routing their invitation to the programme through the Foreign Affairs Ministry and by informing the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC of their presence and mission in the US.

Although, not the first accused to give his own account, Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) in his submission accused the US ambassador of exhibiting a “condescending” behaviour towards them, alleging that the ambassador did not deem it fit to have a meeting with members of the group which attended a programme organised by his embassy until they had to insist following the allegation.

Gbillah said he was the person who got wind of the allegation when he represented the House speaker in an event at the Chinese embassy where he ran into the US ambassador, James Entwistle, and introduced himself, only to be told that he was “one of those lawmakers who went to the US and behaved in a manner that brought disrepute to the embassy and to yourselves”.

He told the committee that he demanded to know what the offences were, but the ambassador never gave any, saying that he would write formally to the affected lawmakers and the speaker.

He disclosed that it was after that exchange with the ambassador that he told his colleagues about what he had been told, after which the embassy contacted one of them upon their insistence to initiate a meeting which was deadlocked due to the “condescending attitude” of the Deputy Head of Mission who conveyed it.

Explaining the alleged “condescension” further, he said: “At the meeting we had with the embassy which the ambassador didn’t attend, we were told that the programme was to acquaint us with political and congressional practices of the US, but when we got there, we didn’t meet a single member of the Congress, instead, they brought local councillors and later a state Assembly member after we protested”.

“So, the whole exercise was based on lies from the onset”, Gbillah alleged.

On the allegation against him, he denied having any conversation with a car park attendant let alone soliciting for a service from prostitutes through him or her, adding that he demand testamentary evidence of his meeting and conversation with the said attendant.

Also in his submission, Hon. Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) alluded to the fact that the ambassador treated them with levity using the word, “condescending” saying that “we were told upon asking in the US that the ambassador in Nigeria would issue us with certificates of participation upon debriefing after we return but that has not taken place up till now”.

Ikon, who like Gbillah was accused of soliciting for prostitutes, also denied indulging in such act, informing the joint committee that he had on behalf of the accused persons held meetings with the minister who pledged to communicate with the embassy and relate progress to them.

They said while the embassy did not inform the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassy in the US, it also prevented them from staying in the same hotel with their spouses which prevented some of them from travelling with them, a decision they said was communicated via email.

On the part of Hon. Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi), who was the first to make submissions, the entire allegation was a shock that has greatly affected his reputation as a lawmaker and also as a husband and a father.

Asked if he knew how he was selected for the training programme, Gololo said no, adding that while they were in the US, he did not encounter any Nigerian official except for the guide attached to them by the US Home Office to lead their way around.

He said he couldn’t explain why he would be picked on and leveled such allegation, insisting on his innocence. He said what happened was an extension of the bad treatment they received in the US during the programme as also alleged by both Gbillah and Ikon.

Also asked why he would think that he was picked on given that there were 10 members who travelled on the same trip, he said he didn’t know, adding that there was no time a hotel maid came into his room the whole time he was in the hotel.

Asked again if he did not order any breakfast, lunch or dinner for the 14 days he stayed in the hotel, he answered in the negative, demanding for any kind of prove that he was seen with any woman in his room let alone grabbing her and soliciting for sex.

On her part, co-chairperson of the joint committee, Hon. Nnenna Ukejeh (PDP, Abia) who also chair the Committee on Foreign Affairs raised concerns on the channel of communication inviting the lawmakers for the programme and then the meeting at the embassy after they got back.

She said the proper thing in line with diplomatic protocol was for the US embassy to write the Foreign Affairs Ministry, informing the minister of what had transpired while the lawmakers were in the US upon which the minister would handle whatever issue from there.

Gololo responded saying that he was only informed by a colleague at the chamber on the very day of the meeting without any written correspondence.

The accused lawmakers also told the panel that they were identified as the accused persons via a group photograph they took in Washington DC while on the trip.

Another issue of contention at the hearing was the absence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who for the second time failed to turn up at the hearing despite causing postponement of the meeting last week Thursday.

The minister on Wednesday wrote the chairman, House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Osai Nicholas Osai, expressing regrets for not being able to attend the rescheduled hearing due to the need to attend the Federal Executive Council meeting to brief the council on what happened at the AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

The committee, though recognising the need for the minister to brief the council, however, insisted that he be present at the hearing as it needs to finish with the matter and lay it to rest before proceeding on long vacation today.