The Nigerian House of Representatives and the US Government are exploring diplomatic options to resolve the sexual misconduct allegations levelled against three lawmakers in 2016, The PUNCH reports.
The members are House Deputy Chairman, Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Mr. Mark Terseer-Gbillah (APC, Benue); Mr. Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom); and Mr. Mohammed Garba-Gololo (APC, Bauchi).
Findings showed that this came after the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, engaged the current US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington, on the matter and an understanding was reportedly reached to sort out the case through diplomatic channels, with a view to reinstating the lawmakers’ US visas.
A former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, had accused the three of committing the alleged misconduct during a leadership training visit to the US in April 2016, prompting the Nigerian legislature to call for an investigation.
The House had exonerated the lawmakers after a report by its Joint Committees on Ethics/Privileges and Foreign Relations, found no wrongdoing on their part.
Recall that the narrative changed in favour of Terseer-Gbillah, Garba-Gololo and Ikon after the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, appeared before the committees on July 21, 2016, to testify that the US did not produce any concrete evidence to prove the allegations.
Entwistle too failed to appear before the committees, while a female maid, who alleged that Garba-Gololo “grabbed” her in a hotel room, also declined to testify.
Investigations showed on Monday that Entwistle’s successor had indicated to look into the matter by exploring a diplomatic solution to settle it amicably.
The three lawmakers had soon after the no-guilty-verdict by the House, threatened to sue the US authorities and claim $1bn in damages for “the embarrassment” the episode caused them and the fact of their being barred from visiting the US.
However, they put the legal option on hold temporarily, awaiting the outcome of the diplomatic engagement between Dogara and Symington.
Terseer-Gbillah, who is the Coordinator of the three lawmakers, confirmed to The PUNCH in Abuja on Monday that they were waiting for the outcome of the intervention.
He stated, “The Speaker and the ambassador have met and the discussions are on as we are told.We have not been briefed again, but we will soon find out what the latest development is.
“The ambassador spoke of the fact that he was not the one here when all this happened and said he would look into it. As for going to court, we have not jettisoned it, but let us hear the outcome of this intervention.
“The case we have is no longer just filing for libel and apology; we are going beyond this to the psychological effect it has had on our persons and the pain we go through all the time.
“Our lawyers have been fully briefed and working on it. It is no longer news that this case was investigated by the House and we came out clean.”
The House committees had made three recommendations to the session, which was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun, in October 2016.
It read, “That Hon. Mohammed Garba Gololo, Hon. Mark Tersee-Gbillah and Hon. Samuel Ikon are cleared of and exonerated from the allegations levelled against them by the United States Ambassador to Nigeria in his June 9, 2016 letter to the Hon.Speaker, for want of evidence.
“That in the light of the foregoing, the Minister of Foreign Affairs do engage with the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, with a view to finding a seamless resolution of the domestic fallout of this unfortunate incident as it relates to Hon. Mohammed Garba Gololo, Hon. Mark Terseer Gbillah and Hon. Samuel Ikon;
“That the Ministry of Foreign Affairs do write to remind the United States Embassy of the need to always adopt the official channel of communications in its dealings with any organ or institution of government.”
The House had adopted all three recommendations soon after the Lead Chairman, Mr. Nicholas Ossai, briefed members on the findings of the investigation.
Ossai had stated, “The committee was not availed of any concrete evidence outside the confidential letter the Ambassador wrote the speaker.
“There was no video, audio or any form of evidence presented before the committee to justify the allegations.”
While testifying on July 21, Onyeama had told the committee how he encountered Entwistle over the allegations, but could not get “concrete evidence.”
He explained how the former Ambassador also apologised for not using the official diplomatic channel of routing his letter to the speaker (Dogara) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The minister had testified further, “I asked him about the evidence that emboldened them to arrive at the type of conclusions they did in the letter.
“The ambassador stressed that it was factual that there were allegations, but that he was not passing any judgment.
“I said who made the allegations? He said a hotel maid or cleaner, who said Garba-Gololo made inappropriate request and approached her in the hotel.
“But, he now made it clear that the housekeeper would not testify; that she does not want to testify.
“I was surprised that the person who made such a serious allegation was not willing to testify.
“For the parking lot attendants, the Ambassador said they identified the lawmakers in photographs.
“I replied that there is clearly a possibility of a legal proceeding for defamation because I thought there was stronger evidence. Again, he apologised that his only point of writing Dogara was to pass information about those allegations.”
Garba-Gololo, Mark-Gbillah and Ikon were in the US to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Programme on Good Governance organised by the US Government.
The three legislators were on a team of 10 members nominated to attend the leadership programme, which took place in Cleveland, Ohio, between April 7 and 13, 2016.
While there, they allegedly solicited the services of prostitutes through car park attendants and assaulted a female hotel housekeeper.
Culled from Punch
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