Postpones hearing over minister,
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The House of Representatives Committee investigating the allegations of sexual misconduct against three lawmakers has accused the out going United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, of breaching diplomatic protocols, by writing directly to the Speaker of the House.
Diplomatic convention requires that any communication to an arm of government by a diplomat, should be channelled through the Foreign Ministry of the host country, and vice versa.
This is as the investigative hearing was yesterday adjourned due to the absence of Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama and Entwistle. It would reconvene on July 20, 2016.
Onyeama is currently attending the 29th Ordinary Session of the African Union in Kigali, Rwanda.
Entwistle in a petition dated June 9, 2016, had accused Hon. Mark Gbillah, Hon. Samuel Ikon and Hon. Garba Gololo of soliciting for sex while on a recent trip to Cleveland, Ohio on an International Visitors Leadership Programme in April.
The Chairman of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, noted that the petition ought to have been routed through the Foreign Ministry.
Notwithstanding this breach, the committee has followed the proper channel in inviting Entwistle to the investigative hearing, Ossai said.
The outgoing ambassador was expected to appear at the hearing with Onyeama.
In his opening remarks Ossai said all parties would get fair hearing.
“Ordinarily, both committees (Ethics and Foreign Affairs) do silent investigations, but this issue has generated interest globally, and that is why the proceedings are public,” he said.
Ossai expressed strong feelings at the breach of diplomatic protocol by Entwistle.
“We do not want to look at the technicality of the correspondence between the US ambassador and the speaker, but the fact remains that due process was not followed. We as a committee would however look at the facts of the matter,” he added.
“By writing straight to the speaker, he has tactically waived his right, but we would not relate that way,” Ossai said.
Ossai read the letter from Onyeama intimating the committee of his trip and requesting that a date, after July 19, 2016 when he would return to Nigeria, be set for the hearing.
The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Hon. Nnenna Ukeje, in her remarks, disclosed that the minister has already engaged with the ambassador on the matter.
“We expect the minister to tell us the outcome of that conversation,” she said and added that the committee was committed to getting to the root of the allegations and laying the matter to rest.
Ukeje however noted that the committee would work with the Foreign Ministry in the course of the investigations to ensure that the sanctity of Nigeria-US relations, is preserved.
“He (Entwistle) breached the line of communication, that is an issue for us to ask him because we are aware that for him to communicate with any arm of government, it has to be through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Ukeje said.
All three accused lawmakers were present at the hearing.
Gbillah’s wife, with a female infant strapped to her body, was also at the hearing.
She declined to speak to journalists after the hearing was adjourned.