Friday, 17 June 2016

Rape attempt: US revokes three lawmakers’ visas

Sex scandal: US revokes lawmakers’ visas

Following allegations the US Government has revoked the visas of the affected lawmakers.

    House begins probe of indicted Reps
    Legislators reply ambassador, threaten legal action

Following allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against three members of the House of Representatives by the United States Embassy in Nigeria, the US Government has
revoked the visas of the affected lawmakers.

This is just as the leadership of the lower chamber has resolved to commence investigation into the matter. One of the accused lawmakers, Hon. Mark Gbillah, who confirmed this, said they “received correspondence from the US Embassy on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 indicating the denial of their US visas and requesting that they bring their international passports with current US visas to the Embassy.”

New Telegraph had, yesterday, reported exclusively a letter written to Speaker Yakubu Dogara by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, alleging that three out of 10 members of the House had, on an official trip to the US, indulged in attempted rape and soliciting for prostitutes from staff of a Cleveland hotel in Ohio. The three members, according to the Ambassador in a letter dated June 9, 2016, are: Hon. Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi), Hon. Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue).

The Ambassador alleged that: “Mohammed Garba Gololo allegedly grabbed a housekeeper in his hotel room and solicited 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 for prostitutes.”

The US Ambassador had, in the letter to Dogara, given a hint about the planned revocation of the lawmakers’ visas.

“… Such conduct could affect some participants’ ability to travel to the United States in the future. U.S. visa holders are expected to observe U.S. law while in the United States.

If it is determined visitors have violated U.S. law, their visas can be revoked, even if their behaviour did not result in arrests or convictions,” Entwistle had said. Efforts to get official confirmation from the US Embassy proved abortive.

An official of the US Embassy told New Telegraph that the Embassy does not make comments on a private diplomatic correspondence with an institution. However, Mohammed Sani, Public Affairs Specialist of the Embassy, advised that any further inquiries could be made through a media request form and routed through the Embassy’s website.

Ten lawmakers were invited by the US government for the International Visitor Leadership Program held between April 7 and 13, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The remaining lawmakers who were on the controversial trip include: Gaza Jonathan Gbefwi (PDP-Nasarawa State), Danburam Abubakar Nuhu (APC-Kano State), Nkole Uko Ndukwe (PDPAbia State), Rita Orji (PDPLagos State), Ayo Huliyat Omidiran (APC-Osun).

But, reacting to the scandal at a briefing, chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas, confirmed that the leadership of the House was investigating the allegations to deter-mine its authenticity or otherwise.

He said: “Ten of our members went to Cleveland, Ohio, US to participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme on good governance in April. However, we are in receipt of a letter from the Ambassador of US where he alleged that some of the members were involved in misconduct.

“As a responsible parliament, the leadership has received this letter and is doing its own investigation. When investigations are concluded, we will brief you further.”

The House spokesman insisted that the members under investigation were not guilty and must not be treated so until proven otherwise, adding that they have not been convicted by any court of law. “Nobody has been convicted; none of them is before any court of law and once it’s an allegation, it remains an allegation until investigations are over,” Namdas stated. The spokesman, however, could not disclose the mode of the investigation, who constitute the panel and when it will commence.

Meanwhile, two of the indicted lawmakers have written to the ambassador in response to the allegations. In his letter to the Ambassador dated June 15, 2016 and copied to the speaker, Gbillah who allegedly requested hotel parking attendants to assist him to solicit for prostitutes, threatened legal action against the US government.

Gbillah’s letter titled: “Allegations of impropriety against honourable members of the Nigerian House of Representatives by the US Embassy in Nigeria and the US State Department” was copied to Dogara, the United States Secretary of State, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Cleveland Council of World Affairs and the President and CEO of Marriott International.

He wrote: “It has come to my attention that via correspondence from your good self to His Excellency, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (a copy of which I also received) you made very serious allegations against me and other members of the House of Representatives’ group that visited the United States in April 2016 as part of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP).

“In your letter, you claimed that I was identified as one of the members of the aforementioned group who asked for the assistance of a hotel parking attendant to solicit for prostitutes at the Residence Inn Downtown Cleveland Ohio.

I am extremely shocked, upset, irked and embarrassed by your letter and want to categorically state that these allegations are completely false, unfounded, malicious and a calculated attempt to malign and cast aspersion on my reputation and character as a Nigerian citizen and honourable member of the House of Representatives and to bring disrepute to the hallowed institution of the National Assembly and the entire nation of Nigeria.”

Gbillah noted that: “I have visited the US and several countries in the world countless times over the last several years and have stayed at countless hotels all over the world and want to dare the US government to find any instance where I have previously solicited for prostitutes from a hotel employee even when I was not a married man. “…I am a member of  two of the rewards programmes of the parent hotel brand of the Residence Inn (Marriott Rewards and Ritz Carlton Rewards) and the record of my previous stays at all the hotel brands can be obtained to ascertain whether or not I have ever solicited for prostitutes from any hotel employee.

“Although it is very easy to obtain the previous travel history and track record of accused members, it is obvious the US State Department and the US Embassy have presumed our guilt without proper investigation because of the disdain and disrespect they have towards the average Nigerian citizen, even when such citizens are members of the Nigerian House of Representatives, a treatment they will never mete out to an ordinary American citizen who is not even a member of the US Congress.”

He informed that “a member of our group made a formal complaint to the organisers of the programme about his being defrauded to the tune of about $100 at the Renaissance Hotel Dupont Circle Washington DC, but neither the US State Department nor the US Embassy in Nigeria has deemed it fit to take any action or initiate any investigation in this regard.”

He said in view of the damage done to him, he intends to “institute legal action in the United States against the Marriot Hotel Brand, the Cleveland Council of World Affairs and the US State Department requesting for damages, comprehensive investigation of these allegations to exonerate myself and a formal globally publicised apology.

His words: “I will institute legal action in Nigeria against the US Embassy in Nigeria requesting for damages, comprehensive investigation of these allegations and a formal globally publicised apology. “I demand that the US Embassy and the US State Department (regardless of your revocation of my US visa) allow me to travel to Cleveland even at my own expense to confront my accuser and confirm my innocence. I otherwise have no desire to travel to a country that appears to pay only lip service to the ideals they claim to uphold.

“Also, I demand 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.” Also, Gololo, who was alleged to have grabbed a housekeeper, in his letter to the ambassador, which was copied to the speaker, warned the US Ambassador of the consequences of his petition. He said: “There is the example of Mr. Strauss, the former Managing Director of the IMF, who was involved in similar allegations, but the evidence was clearly brought showing what he did in the hotel room. So, I demand video or any similar evidence of my alleged misbehaviour.”

Gololo, in the letter dated June 13, 2016 and titled: Re: Allegations over troubling behaviour at Cleveland, Ohio, said: “May I remind your excellency of the recent case in your country where the great wrestler, Hulk Hogan, was similarly falsely accused and he went to court and got $140 million in damages. Gawker has applied for bankruptcy because of the case.” In his reaction, Ikon, who was also accused of soliciting for prostitutes, said in a short message that: “I wish to state unequivocally that this is false and definitely not me. “This, to me, is a case of mistaken identity and I have already instituted measures both legally and diplomatically to clear my name and the institution I represent.”