Prominent groups and civil rights activists have described as embarrassing the alleged sexual misconduct of three members of the House of Representatives during their visit to the United States
The groups and individuals, in separate interviews with Sunday PUNCH, said if the allegation was established, the affected members should resign or be recalled by their constituents.
The US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, in a letter dated June 9, 2016, addressed to the Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, had alleged that three members of the House, Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi), Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) had, on a recent visit to the US for the International Visitor Leadership Programme, brought disrepute to the parliament by soliciting for sex from prostitutes and grabbing a hotel housekeeper in a bid to rape her. The affected lawmakers have, however, 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.”
But a lawyer and President of Committee for Defence of Human Rights, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, described the “scandal as one too many.”
Malachy said, “Once again, this has embarrassed our sensibility; it has scandalised us.
“Beyond the report of the scandal, it demands a thorough investigation. It is gratifying that the House of Representatives asked its committee to get to the root of the matter.
“The US Ambassador cannot write the report frivolously. If it is established that the allegations against the lawmakers are true, the legislators should be recalled by their constituents as provided for under the Constitution.”
He also said they should be prosecuted either in Nigeria or in the US depending on available evidence.
Another lawyer and rights activist, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, who made a similar call, dismissed the threat of legal action by the legislators.
He said the legislators would have a tough case to make as the US Ambassador would not have made the allegation without evidence.
Ogunye said, “The allegation of attempt of immoral dalliance and consummation of prostitution in the US levelled against the members of the House of Representatives is very disturbing.
“Our legislators are globally notorious for earning more than they deserve paradoxically, in a country where the people are living in largely below the poverty line.
“However, the allegation of going to the US to procure illicit sex has added further insult to our injury.
“We hope that the allegation is not true. But what is expected to debunk the allegation is the laughable threat of instituting legal action against a diplomat that has diplomatic immunity that cannot be sued here by the legislators.
“If the allegation is established, the legislators should resign from office. And if they remain in office they should be barred from embarking on foreign trips so that they will not further disgrace Nigeria.”
Another prominent lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, said the scandal was a reflection of Nigeria’s collapsing value system.
Shittu said, “I think the scandal is a reflection of our collapsing value system. The case should not be swept under the carpet. The Nigerian government should have interest in this matter because it borders on our international image and integrity. It borders on our integrity and our image and it should be treated as such.
“If the legislators are indicted and their allegations and found to be guilty, they should be recalled by their constituents if they don’t have the courage to resign.”
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, urged the House to suspend those involved.
He stated, “The House of Representatives must launch an investigation into the allegations and possibly suspend the characters, pending the outcome of the investigation.
“If a guilt verdict is established, they should be made to vacate their seats as a deterrence to other wayward characters. The issue deserves investigation because America would have no reason to single out three of them out of 10 for these serious allegations.”
Also a US-based activist, Smart Ajaja, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the allegation gave every responsible Nigerian residing in America a cause for concern.
“The incident of sexual misconduct, especially rape or attempted rape, when reported, is a grievous offense and regardless of who you are, you will be made to face the full weight of the applicable law if and when a firm case to that effect is established against you,” he said.
According to him prostitution, though a lesser sexual misconduct falling under the misdemeanour categorisation, is illegal in most states of the US.
Ajaja stated, “It is also interesting that there are now some Nigerian women-pimps who specialise in arranging fellow Nigerian women including vulnerable married women looking for contracts, cash and connections in Nigeria, for interested visiting Nigerian politicians to the US.”
When contacted, the US Embassy in Nigeria refused to respond to request for further information on the alleged involvement of three members of House of Representatives in sex scandal in Cleveland, US.
An email request on Saturday on the next step being taken by the US government on the scandal did not receive a positive response from the mission in Abuja.
The mission Press Attaché, Sean McIntosh, insisted that the embassy would not comment on “private diplomatic correspondence.”
McIntosh said, “Again, we decline to comment on private diplomatic correspondence. Visa records are confidential per the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.”