July 12, 2016

Sex scandal: US envoy to present video evidence

Sex scandal: US envoy to present video evidence

Ikon, Gololo and Gbillah

By Kenneth Ehigiator, News Editor, & Johnbosco Agbakwuru, with agency reports

ABUJA— Ambassador of the United States to Nigeria, James Entwistle, is to present video evidence against the three members of the House of Representatives  on Thursday when Ossai Ossai Committee assigned to probe the alleged sex misconduct involving the trio begins open public hearing.

The three accused members include Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi); Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue).

Entwistle had in a petition to Dogara, alleged that the actions of the three lawmakers at the International Visitor Leadership Programme in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, from April 7 to 13, 2016, brought disrepute to the parliament. The Ambassador had alleged that the Reps solicited for sex from prostitutes and grabbing hotel housekeeper in a bid to rape.

Ikon, Gololo and Gbillah

Ikon, Gololo and Gbillah

Vanguard reliably gathered that the committee had been unable to sit because some of the members had gone pilgrimage to Mecca during the Ramadan.

It was also gathered that the committee decided not to extend the invitation to the hotel management as the ambassador, who released the information through a letter to the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, is expected to have all the documentary evidence against the three accused members.

Apart from the US Ambassador that is expected at the hearing, the committee also extended invitation to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, the three accused lawmakers as well as the other seven members that attended the leadership programme.

Speaking to Vanguard on phone, Chairman of the committee, Ossai, said the committee decided not to invite the management of the hotel where the alleged sex misconduct took place because it believed the Ambassador would come with all the necessary video evidence on the act.

He added: “When I am given a job, I do it diligently. I don’t compromise anything. My reputation and the reputation of the House is at stake.”

Recall that the Speaker, Dogara, while inaugurating the Ossai-led Ethics Committee alongside the Foreign Affairs after the House resolution at plenary on Tuesday, June 21, mandated it to investigate the culpability of the three members involved in the alleged sex misconduct.

He described the assignment as a very serious one, since many people had already made their conclusion that the three accused lawmakers were culpable.

He, however, stated that “the standard in the US is that an accused is assumed innocent until proven guilty and that is the same standard in Nigeria. Any one who has evidence can now see the committee.”

Let the US Ambassador tender the video evidence—Nkem-Abonta, Mrakpor

Also commenting, the member representing Ukwa Federal Constituency of Abia State, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta asked the Ambassador to tender any video evidence he had before the committee.

He said: “Let him bring the video tape so that the whole world will see it. I think that if that is true, that he had the video evidence, our legislators did not behave well.”

Also commenting, Onyemaechi Joan Mrakpor, PDP, Delta, said she would not like to preempt the committee or any evidence the Ambassador claims he has until everything was made public.

She said: “That is his claim, he should provide the evidence. The people (the three lawmakers) are alive to present their own explanations or evidence.”

Buhari’s anti-graft war not selective

In another development, Ambassador Entwistle, has said the ongoing anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari was not selective, saying the President had done what he should do.

Entwistle, who stated this in an an interview with select journalists in Abuja, weekend, said:  “I don’t agree (that the war is selective). I have a lot of respect for President Buhari on the corruption issue. He made it clear during the campaigns that he was going to make that his focus.

“He has done exactly what he said he would do. It’s clear that he has unleashed the investigative agencies, and told them to follow evidence and information wherever it goes.

“I have followed all the things you have just mentioned; that there are prosecutions that are politically-motivated and so on.

“I have been following this, looking for either investigations or arrests that are solely politically-motivated, or only political. I haven’t found any. I think there are cases where there might be a political angle to it, but there are also some real evidence to support the real case.

“That’s something we follow very closely, just as you do. Narrow are the paths of investigations, making arrests, but I hope Nigerians will follow very closely in the next few years as these cases go to court.

“How they are handled in court, how the courts do their job, how the government reacts when inevitably they would lose a case in court, what’s the reaction to that. All these are things that have to be observed and handled very carefully.

“But, the premise of your question is absolutely correct. In any country, it is easy for corruption cases to begin to spin out of control. I don’t see that happening here. I hope all Nigerians will follow that very closely, and if you see it, say it.”

On whether  Obama will  visit Nigeria

Asked if President Barack Obama will ever visit Nigeria before the expiration  of his tenure, Entwistle said:  “Nobody would be happier to see President Obama come to Nigeria than me. But, let me remind you that President Obama is in office for six more months, which is a long time.

“So, we’ll see what happens. Keep in mind that there are other ways to do finer relationships than just a visit by a president.

“When President Buhari went to Washington a year ago this month, he met for a long time with President Obama in the Oval Office. So, we have a very good, high level relationship, even when President Obama has not been to Nigeria. But, as I said, he will be in office for six more months. We will see what happens.

On his most memorable experience in Nigeria

On his most memorable experience in Nigeria, he said:  “I will have to go back to the elections. I found that to be a positive, almost euphoric experience. That’s something I will always carry in my heart forever. I will never forget it.

“On election day, I stayed in Abuja, but we had our own teams all over the country. I went to a polling station in FCT and talked to an old woman. She’s been there all morning till that afternoon, and she said to me: ‘This is elections day. If I have to stand here all day in order to vote, then I will stand all day.’

“I said to myself whao! Sometimes it is easy to take the right to vote for granted. We forget what people have gone through all over the world to get their right to vote, and how precious it is. Listening to the elderly woman reminded me how precious the right to vote is, and what people go through to get it.

“I was there in Alabama when Martin Luther King made his now famous speech. I remember African-Americans protesting, because they wanted to vote, even though theoretically they have had the right for a hundred years. They wanted to have the right to vote. I remember the people being attacked by the police in Alabama with water and dogs.

“That underlines to me how precious a thing the right to vote is. I think about what people have gone through. I saw the emphasis Nigerians put on, the patience that they stood in line, and the way the system worked after that.

“The votes were counted and tabulated; the incumbent president conceded defeat and stepped down. I thought the whole process was incredibly inspirational. That’s the high point of my time here.”

Buhari has done a good job

On whether the President had met the expectations of Nigerians since he assumed office a year ago, the ambassador said:  “I see a parallel between President Buhari and President Obama. President Obama had not been in office for a long time before people began to have the same kind of impatience.

“I think in the US, a lot of people forgot how difficult the situation President Obama inherited was at the time. I think the same thing is happening with President Buhari to a certain degree.

“It’s completely understandable for people to have high expectations. They are impatient, because they want to see change. But, President Buhari inherited a pretty difficult set of circumstances, and some of the things he’s identified what needed to be done — end corruption, reform the petroleum sector, end the conflict in the North East region — are things that even if he works as hard as he can, they are going to take some time to yield the kind of results people expect.

“I understand why people are impatient. I remember a week after inauguration, looking at the newspapers, there was already an editorial that said: ‘Well, Mr. President, it’s been a week, we haven’t seen much yet.'”