Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi), Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue), who were part of 10 legislators invited by the U.S. government for the International Visitor Leadership Programme between April 7 and 13 in Cleveland, Ohio, were accused of sexual misconduct.
” Minister of Foreign Relations Geoffrey Onyeama said yesterday that Former United States Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle has no evidence of alleged sexual misconduct against three House of Representatives members.
The committee was, however, shocked to learn that though the event from which the allegation emanated was a government-to-government programme, the minister said his ministry was not aware, and that Nigerian Embassy in America was unaware.
Enyeama said in his interaction with the former ambassador, “he did not present any corroborative evidence and did not give the impression that there was any.
“He did not make any allegations against the members, he was just saying allegations were made and he confirmed they were made.”
The minister said there were no testimonies. “The house keeper ( who claimed a member grabbed her in the hotel) refused to testify further.” Entwistle, he said was surprised the housekeeper refused to testify.
“I was surprised the main complainant failed to testify when approached by her government,” Enyeama added.
He said the allegation “does not constitute guilt,” but that Entwistle felt an obligation to bring it to the attention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. “He’s not saying they are true or not.”
But members of the committee wanted to know why visas of the members accused were cancelled, if they were not adjudged guilty.
“We don’t know the workings of the U.S. government The U.S. has discretion on its visa . It doesn’t have to give any reason why it must have taken any step,” the minister said.
He, however, gave an insight on what may have caused the visa cancellations and three years’ travel ban on the lawmakers, saying there was a meeting in the United States Embassy in Abuja prior to the letter by the former ambassador
“A group (of lawmakers) went to the U.S. Embassy and it was an acrimonious meeting. The deputy ambassador was spoken to in an aggressive manner and voices were raised and the group walked out. The incident would not have encouraged a sympathetic approach.”
But the affected lawmakers said at the meeting with the Deputy Chief of Mission, Ms. Maria E. Brewer on June 8, 2016, in which she informed the members about the incident for the first time she was rude and walked out on members twice.
Answering questions from Ossai Nicholas Ossai, the committee chairman on why Entwistle would write a damaging letter to the Speaker when there was no proof, the minister said the letter was to brief the Speaker on the alleged misconduct to ensure his people do not jeopardise the programme in future.
“I will see this more as to remind your members to be sure they don’t put themselves in such a situation as it could lead to Nigeria not participating in such a programme in future.”
Enyeama said the ambassador breached protocol by writing to the Speaker, “the normal channel would be to come through the ministry,” he said.
When asked by the committee if there was any sanction for such a behaviour, he said: “There is none, we just brought it to his notice.”