Following a formal complaint made by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle on attempted rape of a female hotel worker in America by three members of the House of Assembly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara has ordered the investigation into the matter.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, who confirmed this in Abuja, said, “we are in receipt of a letter from the US Ambassador, alleging misconduct by some members of the National Assembly, who attended a training programme in the United States of America.
“The leaderships of the House has commenced its own part of the investigation. When it is concluded, we will brief Nigerians further on this issue.”
But, Namdas declined to answer questions on how the investigation would be conducted. He did not say if a special committee had been constituted for the assignment or whether it would be conducted by the regular Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
“When we say we will conduct an investigation, we will conduct it and there will be a report,” Namdas said.
The development came as the US formally withdrew its visas from the three lawmakers, an indication that they had been barred from future trips to the United States.
The Ambassador had written a petition to the Speaker , complaining that some members of the House of the Reps who recently visited the United States on an official programme, attempted to rape a hotel housekeeper, and that they also solicited for prostitutes.
The offending members were said to be among the team who attended the just concluded International Visitor Leadership Program in Cleveland, Ohio.
Hon. Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi), Hon. Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue).
Here is the full text of Ambassador Entwistle’s letter to Speaker Dogara:
“It is with regret that I must bring to your attention the following situation. Ten members of the Nigerian National Assembly recently travelled to Cleveland, Ohio as participants in the International Visitor Leadership Programme on good governance. We received troubling allegations regarding the behaviour of three members of the delegation to the U.S. Government’s flagship professional exchange programme.
The U.S. Department of State and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs received reports from employees of the Cleveland hotel where the representatives stayed, alleging the representatives engaged in the following behaviour: Mohammed Garba Gololo allegedly grabbed a housekeeper in his hotel room and solicited her for sex. While the housekeeper reported this to her management, this incident could have involved local law enforcement and resulted in legal consequences for Representative Gololo.
Mark Terseer Gbillah and Samuel Ikon allegedly requested hotel parking attendants assist them to solicit prostitutes.
The U.S. Mission took pains to confirm these allegations and the identities of the individuals with the employees of the hotel in Cleveland.
The conduct described above left a very negative impression of Nigeria, casting a shadow on Nigeria’s National Assembly, the International Visitor Leadership Program, and to the American hosts’ impression of Nigeria as a whole.
Such conduct could affect some participants’ ability to travel to the United States in the future.”
While the majority of Nigerian visitors to the United States do behave appropriately, even a few Nigerians demonstrating poor judgment leads to a poor impression of the Nigerian people generally, though it is far from accurate. Such incidents jeopardise the ability of future programming and make host institutions and organizations less likely to welcome similar visits in the future.
In addition, most of the members of this group reacted very negatively to my deputy when she brought this matter to their attention, further calling into question their judgement and commitment to the goals of the International Visitor Leadership Programme.
This leads us to question whether to include National Assembly members for other similar programmes in the future.
I request, in the strongest possible terms, you share this message with members of the National Assembly so they understand the seriousness of these issues, and the potential consequences of their actions, not only for themselves as individuals, but also for the future of such programmes designed to benefit Nigeria.”
However, the accused persons have vehemently denied the allegations.
Hon Mark Terseer Gbillah has this to say:
“This is an affront on the National Assembly and Nigeria, it appears they have ulterior motives. We are not going to take this lightly; we will take legal actions against the US government. It is a dent on our image.
I went on the trip with my wife and baby and insisted that she stayed with me, but they told me the accommodation was meant for only participants. So, at Cleveland Renaissance where we were, opposite the Quicken Loan Arena, the Cleveland Cavalier Basketball team played a match and many people came to lodge at the same hotel, and they claimed that we spoke with car park attendants.
We didn’t go with cars, so how could we have spoken with attendants?
I saw the ambassador (Entwistle) and went to greet him and he told me how a few of us tarnished the image of the House. I advised him to make it formal so that we can know who was involved and what actually happened.
It was after this encounter that they called us to their premises and said they were identified by their accusers in a group picture. This is curious. No video footage. They didn’t accost us while we were in US. We suspect this is a calculated attempt to rubbish the National Assembly.
Is this how they would have investigated their congressmen? Do they know that there were other black people who came to watch the match? How could they have identified us in a picture without our knowledge?
We, the concerned members, have written to the speaker indicating the facts and demanding footage of our stay in the hotel. We also want them to provide access to our accusers to identify us. But most importantly, we would be demanding compensation from the US government for defamation of character.”
Here’s what Hon Mohammed Garba Gololo said:
“Let me, from the outset, express my shock and dismay at the contents of the letter generally and particularly affects me.
These are totally false, unfounded and baseless allegations against me. I categorically deny any such incident happened, I never grabbed any housekeeper nor did I solicit for sex. I also take this issue very seriously not only because I am a honourable member representing a hallowed institution, but because of my integrity as a husband and father.
How would my family and in-laws react to these wild and grave allegations?
I demand an apology and retraction of these allegations or I shall not hesitate to engage the services of lawyers and not only to clear my name, but to seek redress for the damages done to my reputation. I insist that evidence of the allegations against me be produced.
It is, therefore, in the interest of both countries to investigate this matter thoroughly to get to the root of it and I am ready to go back to Cleveland at my expense to establish my innocence without prejudice to my rights, press charges against libellous allegations.”
Hon Samuel Ikon could not be reached for comments.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the House, Abdulrazaq Namdas, confirmed the receipt of the letter from the embassy.
One of them said: “I cannot believe this. Something must be wrong somewhere. We were all in the same hotel and this same man (Gololo) was there as well. He has all the capacity to get a woman in the city if he wanted to, but he is somebody we all know loves his wife and family so much.
The lady did not even mention names, we learnt she only pointed at the man in the group photograph we took during the programme.
Again, this issue was reported two weeks after we left the hotel. Why was this not done while we were there?
The lady in question did not shout immediately and one wonders if truly there was such thing.
We did not know anything until the letter written to the Speaker went round all of us who were in Cleveland for the meeting. It is shocking.” [myad]