Wife, contituents protest allegation against Ikon
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja and Okon Bassey in Uyo
Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously resolved to open investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against three of their colleagues by the United States Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle.
The Committees on Ethics and Privileges and Foreign Affairs have been mandated to investigate the allegations.
Entwistle in a petition to the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had accused Hon. Mark Gbillah, Hon. Samuel Ikon and Hon. Garba Gololo of solicitation for sex while on a recent trip to Cleveland, Ohio, US, for the international visitors’ leadership programme.
Gololo had allegedly grabbed the housekeeper who was cleaning his hotel room and solicited sex from her while Gbillah and Ikon allegedly asked hotel parking attendants to assist them find prostitutes.
One of the accused members, Gbillah, raised the point of “privilege”, quoting Order six (20)(22) of the House’ rules normally present the matter on the floor.
He lamented that the matter has besieged the news for several days, tarnishing the image of the three men.
“I stand before you here to say categorically that no such incident occurred. I want it on record that we (three) will bear this cross fully,” he said.
“It is a calculated attempt to tarnish the image of the House and Nigeria. I love my wife and I have never cheated on her. I have eyes only for my wife and I have always travelled with my wife and child. I was with them on the said trip,” Gbillah said.
He called for the immediate constitution of a committee to investigate the allegations.
“We demand that justice should be done in this case and we will not relent in our efforts until this investigation is concluded and the report is released to the public,” he said.
Dogara described the allegation as serious and expressed worry that many Nigerians have already decided the accused lawmakers are guilty, without considering the implications for the entire nation.
Pronouncing them guilty without trial, buys into the trend where Nigerians are considered dubious, Dogara warned.
The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nnenna Ukeje advised that the manner of conducting the investigation should not be allowed to jeopardise Nigeria-US ties.
“It is actually an issue between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the US. So, it must be dealt with, taking care not to rubbish the long-standing mutual respect the two countries have for each other,” Ukeje said.
The matter, being a point of privilege, was not debated but immediately referred to the committees.
Meanwhile, Ikon’s wife, Mary, has strongly defended the husband against such act.
Mrs Ikon said in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, that her husband was innocent of the allegation, describing the many script written against him as a manifestation of the usual hate people have against successful people.
“My husband is a good man and from the time of Jesus Christ till now, they never loved the righteous. That is why the whole world is talking today about a false allegation levelled against my dear husband. We know God will vindicate him as no man can curse whom the Lord has blessed,” she said.
Also reacting to the sexual embarrassment, an Akwa Ibom socio political group, Ibom Alliance Mandate has risen in defence of Hon. Ikon over allegation of sexual harassment while on official duty in the United States of America. The group in a statement signed by the state coordinator, Mr. Umoh David, described the letter by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, as an attempt to smear the hard earned reputation of their worthy and dynamic representative.
The lawmaker, the body said is no greenhorn in legislative business and international assignment pointing out that, since he became a legislator in 2007 he has visited countries both within and outside the African continent, wondering how he would have condescended so low to ask a parking lot attendant to get him prostitutes.
“Here we agree with Mark Twain who said ‘a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes’, we therefore take the latest attack on our lawmaker as a blackmail taken too far by the United States ambassador” the statement reads.
The group accused the accusers of a conspiracy aimed at branding and labelling Africans in perspectives that suit the pleasure of their government for political and economic gains and called on Nigerian government to rise up and defend its citizens.
“Today, it is Honourable Ikon accused of asking a car park attendant to convoke prostitutes, tomorrow, who knows who would be accused of having links with Mexican drug barons. We say enough is enough”
While restating their resolve to stand with their representative whom they described as a decent man, the group commended the lawmaker for coming out to defend himself and declare his innocence against such vile allegation.
“Let it be brought to your notice that Rt. Hon Sam Ikon has since come out to refute the allegation levelled against him by you, and he has stated clearly that the name and person you referred to in the said letter is a mistaken identity and we stand by his defence”
Similarly, some prominent members of Hon Ikon Federal constituency have condemned the allegation describing it as baseless and an attempt to tarnish the image of their representative.
Barr Aniefiok Dennis representing Etinan State Constituency said , “Ikon has been going to America even as a kid, he has been going to America before he became a member of the state House of Assembly in 2007. He knows the rules out there even more than some of us.
“For somebody to have levelled such allegation against him is to say the least very unfair. He was not even given fair hearing. I am a lawyer and I strongly believe in the maxim of fair hearing. The embassy just wrote to the speaker of the House of Representatives without bothering to hear from him.
“As somebody representing Ikon in the House of Assembly, I have called him and he told that there was nothing like that. He said he was ready to appear before any investigative panel; in fact, he says he has consulted his lawyers to prepare his briefs; that he might seek legal redress to clear his name”Dennis said.
Similarly, Ikon’s predecessor in the House of Representatives, Obong Dan Akpan who was also Ikon’s colleague I the House of Assembly before moving to the House of Representatives in 2011, described the allegation as trash.
Though he contested against Ikon in 2015 but on the platform of APC, Akpan said Ikon as a man of God could not have indulged in soliciting sex from prostitutes.
“Personally, I won’t believe that because Ikon is a pastor and knows the ethics of his office, apart from travelling to America or going on assignment, I think it is very unfair for the American embassy to say he asked somebody to call a woman. What does that mean?
“For me, I think the allegation is very uncalled for. Does it mean that all the people that travel abroad don’t talk to women? Why should that be an issue? It amount to invasion of somebody’s privacy. And I personally don’t think it is true.
“As I said earlier, Ikon is a pastor, and he has been travelling several times. I was with him in the state House of Assembly. He has travelled so many times to America.
“If you check his passport, you will see that he has travelled so many times to America and he has never had any issue with women or scandal. So for me, I would say the American embassy is just trying to be funny. What is the evidence? A man is asked to go and bring a woman and that had become a big thing? Akpan asked.