After a Trip to US, National Assembly in Image Crisis

The National Assembly is currently battling an image crisis following accusation by United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, that three honourable members of the House of Representatives were involved in attempted rape and soliciting for prostitutes during a recent trip to US, writes Zacheaus Somorin

Many Nigerians were shocked last week when the US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, three honourable members of the House of Representatives of attempted rape and soliciting for prostitutes during a recent trip of some members of the House to Cleveland, US, for the International Visitor Leadership Program. To many, the shock was not about the allegations, but the damage such could have on the image of the National Assembly and the nation.

Ambassador Entwistle had made the allegation in a letter sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on June 9, in which three lawmakers – Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom), Mohammed Gololo (APC, Bauchi) and Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) – were accused of illicit sexual act.

With an already battered image of those who make laws for the Nigerian state following various allegations of corruption in the parliament and huge emoluments received by lawmakers, the petition which contained the allegations, has further dented the image of the parliament, despite the fact that the fact that the allegations are yet to be proven.

Entwistle’s petition alleged that Hon. Gololo, in desperate sexual move, physically grabbed a hotel house keeper and sought to have sex with her.

The petition reads: “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’’.

In further depicting the action of the lawmakers, the ambassador pointed out that the conduct gives 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; saying 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 judgement 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 organisations less likely to welcome similar visits in the future,” the envoy added.

But the accused lawmakers have dismissed the allegations as a puerile attempt by the ambassador to tanish their ‘image’’. They pointed out that the whole sex story was a ‘’calculated attempt at rubbishing the National Assembly’’; promising to demand compensation from the U.S. for defamation of character.

Gbillah, one of the accused, while speaking to a national newspaper, was quick to add that they did not speak to park attendants hence how would they have sought for commercial sex workers’ service.

“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’’, he added.

Having denied all the allegations, the House of Representatives has launched an investigation into the matter. ‘’as a matter of responsibility, the House has commenced investigations into the allegations. We are doing our investigations…they remain allegations until otherwise proven. We have our laws and when investigations are concluded, we will brief you further,’’ Spokesperson of the House, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas, said in acknowledging the receipt of the ambassador’s letter. He stated also that none of the accused is before any law court, harping that the letter just alleged the development.

Gbillah has also threatened to formally institute a legal action to clear his name and save his ‘’political career’.

“It has come to my attention that via correspondence from your good self to His Excellency, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (a copy of which I also received), you made very serious allegations against me and other members of the House of Representatives group that visited the United States in April 2016 as part of the International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP).

“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 aspersion 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 said in a response letter to US ambassador.

Ikom, another House member, who was accused of asking the hotel parking attendant to find him a prostitute, has refuted the allegation, saying that he would appeal all actions possible to clear his name.

“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. I call for patience and God’s abiding wisdom at this time,” he said in a statement.

While the investigations of the House of Representatives continue, The Unites Embassy has revoked the lawmakers visas. The action was taken in a letter written to the three lawmakers by the embassy.