BY Mark Babatunde, 1:35pm June 22, 2016,

Nigerian Lawmakers Involved in Alleged U.S. Sex Scandal Insist They Are Innocent

Nigerian lawmakers are under scrutiny after being accused of sexual misconduct during a trip to the U.S. African Spotlight

Three Nigerian lawmakers who were allegedly involved in a sex scandal during their visit to Cleveland, Ohio, earlier this month continue to maintain their innocence. Now they have petitioned their fellow legislators to arrange a public hearing into the allegations.

Speaking Tuesday on the floor of Nigeria’s State House, Parliamentarian Mark Gbillah completely refuted the accusations, vouching for his innocence and that of his fellow lawmakers. “For my fellow colleagues who know me and Nigerians out there, I want to categorically state here for the avoidance of doubt that no such incident occurred,” he stated. “I want my colleagues and the nation to understand that though we are in the eye of the storm, we will bear this cross and courageously too.”

Charges against the legislators were made public in a letter dated June 9 from the American ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, to the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, accusing two lawmakers of attempting to procure sex from prostitutes and a third of attempting to rape a hotel housekeeper.

The ambassador’s letter read:

“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.'”

There is no love lost between the Nigerian public and their elected representatives, who are arguably some of the world’s highest paid politicians although more than 60 percent of Nigerians’ live below the poverty line. Over the years, the Nigerian parliament has been trailed by sordid accounts of sleaze, reckless spending, and gross impropriety. During the 2012 London Olympics, one Nigerian federal lawmaker created a furor when he racked up an enormous hotel bill for watching porn on cable.

Ambassador Entwistle goes on to emphasize the national damage that the events in Cleveland have caused, saying “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.”

It is no surprise then that these lawmakers’ alleged actions have come under intense evaluation at home, where many are already calling for them to be immediately recalled by their constituencies if found guilty.

Though more reputable than others, the United States judicial system is nowhere near perfect. With so many well-documented miscarriages of justice in its history, some political observers wonder if this might such an instance. While Ambassador Entwistle explained that “the U.S. Mission took pains to confirm these allegations and the identities of the individuals with the employees of the hotel in Cleveland,” these skeptics caution that the public condemnation the lawmakers have received thus far may be a little premature.

The accused have seized upon this idea, describing the ambassador’s petition as calculated to tarnish their image. Mr. Ikon, one of the two accused of soliciting prostitutes, went a little further: calling the allegations an attempt at rubbishing the entire National Assembly, he vowed to press for compensation for defamation of character.

The trio’s continued insistence of innocence and vocal requests for an open, public hearing in their defence is commendable in a political environment where the preferred method is to sweep weighty issues involving well-placed individuals under the rug. Between the accused lawmakers, Ambassador Entwistle, and the American authorities, there is a lot that the Nigerian public needs to know. The public investigation must therefore go on, and as soon as possible, too.

Last Edited by:Deidre Gantt Updated: September 15, 2018


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