The Nigerian lower legislative chamber, the House of Representatives has refused to handle the scandalous sex allegation leveled against three of it members by the United States envoy to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle with levity.
The Nigeria's junior lawmakers' leadership has resolved to relieve the indicted three lawmakers of their House chairmanship positions pending the outcome of the investigation into the matter allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against them by the United States Embassy in Nigeria, New Telegraph confirmed.
it was gathered that the move is part of measures by the House to show its seriousness over the sex allegations. The three lawmakers accused are Messrs Samuel Okon Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom), who chairs the committee on Inter-parliamentary Affairs, Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi), deputy chairman of committee on power and Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue), deputy chairman of the committee on petroleum resources (upstream).
The three lawmakers, in view of this, will be addressing a joint press conference to aggregate their position on the allegations against them.
It would be recalled that the House spokesperson, Abdurazaq Namdas, had on Thursday confirmed that the leadership of the House was investigating the allegations contained in a letter written by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwintle, to the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, on the conduct of the members on a recent trip to the US for a leadership programme.
However, a ranking member of the House,who confided in Saturday Telegraph, said the leadership was considering suspending the three lawmakers from their positions in view of the gravity of the allegations against them. He said, although his colleagues are not guilty as they have not been tried or convicted. He added that the nature of the allegations and the image of the House and the parliament, they might be asked to step aside next week.
“It is likely, the three gentlemen who are in the eye of the storm now may be asked to step aside as leaders in their various committees until investigation into the allegations before the House is completed. “The matter is being discussed at the leadership of the House and may be when we reconvene in plenary next Tuesday, the speaker will make the announcement.”
The lawmaker explained that there was a precedence and the speaker would not be wrong if he pronounces the affected lawmakers suspended as committee chairmen and deputies. “Remember there is a precedence in this House. In the 7th Assembly, when Farouk Lawan was involved the subsidy probe bribery allegations, the Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, relieved him of his position as chairman of the ad hoc committee as well as the standing committee on education.
“Of course, he (Lawan) never headed any committee until he left the House, this was in spite of the fact that the he was not pronounced guilty by the court. But the as a responsible parliament, the speaker took that bold move. I think Rt.Hon. Dogara would follow the same footsteps.
The lawmaker also made reference to the allegations of bribery against Hon. Herman Hembe by the then director general of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms. Arumah Oteh during the 7th Assembly. “Again, we had the issue of N44 million bribery allegations against Herman Hembe by Arunma Oteh. You should recall that Hembe resigned voluntarily to face investigation and subsequent prosecution.
Thank God, Hembe was eventually discharged and acquitted by the court and he is still in the House heading committee on FCT.” When contacted, the chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Emmanuel Orker-Jev, said there was no provision in the House Standing Rules and Orders empowering the speaker to suspend members based on allegations against them. He, however, explained that the speaker could alternatively advise the lawmakers to resign from their positions if he so wishes.
“There is no such provision in our House Standing Rules and Orders. They will maintain their positions. But like it happened in the case of Hon. Hembe verses Arunma Oteh, if they want to resign on their own they can do so. “It is also a matter of personal decision. If the speaker so desire, he can call them personally and talk to them to step down but as to our rules, there is no such thing,” he stated.
What the standing rule on misconduct says
The Standing Rules of the House of Representatives (Eight Edition) only dealt with the conduct of lawmakers during debate on the floor of the chambers and matters concerning publications against another member. The rules also takes care of the privileges of lawmakers but it is silent regarding conduct outside the chambers.
Lawmakers to address the media
Speaking also, Gbillah has confirmed that they would be presenting their joint position next Monday to let Nigerians know what transpired during the trip. The lawmakers have ceased further comment on the development until Monday even though it was gathered that they have been informed of the revocation of their current U.S visas and requesting them to bring their passports.
An online news portal, Per Second News gathered that solicitation of prostitution is a specific intent crime. The Cleveland Police Department has enough evidence that the lawmakers allegedly made serious attempts to engage in prostitution and solicitation, according to reports in Cleveland.
In Ohio, it is a crime to solicit a person to engage in sexual activity in exchange for money (Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.24.). Prostitution, loitering, and solicitation for sex are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 in the state of Ohio. In the U.S, solicitation is a crime, an inchoate offence that consists of a person offering money or inducing another to commit a crime of sex with the specific intent that the person solicited commit the crime.
Gbillah asks U.S to produce video evidence
In a bid to exonerate himself, Gbillah has asked the U.S to produce CCTV footage to support claims that he was involved in a sex scandal. He noted that the lawmakers were not given fair hearing by the embassy. Gbillah in his protest letter to the ambassador over the allegations, demanded for the “full video/CCTV footage covering the period of our entire stay at the hotel; this should clearly show the movements and activities of every member of the group throughout the hotel.”
He wrote that he will institute “legal action in the U.S against the Marriot Hotel Brand, the Cleveland Council of World Affairs and the U.S State Department requesting for damages, comprehensive investigation of these allegations to exonerate myself and a formal globally publicised apology.”