16/Jun/2016 // 3856 Viewers
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, has petitioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, accusing some members of the lower chamber of improper conduct, attempted rape and soliciting for prostitutes while on official trip to the US. But, the affected lawmakers have denied all the allegations and threatened to sue the ambassador and the US government for “character defamation and a calculated attempt to ridicule the National Assembly.”
The Ambassador, in a letter dated June 9, 2016, addressed to Speaker Dogara, alleged that three members of the House namely: Hon. Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi), Hon. Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) had, on a recent visit to the United States for the International Visitor Leadership Program, brought disrepute to the parliament by soliciting for sex from prostitutes and grabbing hotel housekeeper in a bid to rape.
Ten lawmakers were invited by the US government for the International Visitor Leadership Program held between April 7 and 13, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
They include: Gaza Jonathan Gbefwi (PDPNasarawa State), Danburam Abubakar Nuhu (APC-Kano State), Nkole Uko Ndukwe (PDP-Abia State), Rita Orji (PDPLagos State), Ayo Huliyat Omidiran (APC-Osun). Entwistle’s letter 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.”
Entwistle said the US government made efforts to authenticate these allegations.
His words: “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.”
The ambassador acknowledged that “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.”
Entwistle stated that the affected lawmakers did not show remorse when the issue was brought to them.
“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,” he said in the letter.
But, Gbillah said that there was no iota of truth in what the ambassador said but a calculated attempt to cause disaffection between them and their wives, families and constituents as they were not given any fair hearing before the letter was sent to the speaker.
He said he was on the trip with his wife and baby and could not, in any way, solicit for sex from a prostitute.
He said: “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.”
Narrating the story of their stay in US, Gbillah said: “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?” He explained that the first time he heard about the allegations was a month after they returned from the US and went to represent the speaker at the farewell dinner for the Chinese ambassador.
“…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.