Sunday, 19 June 2016

Sex Scandal: Dogara Challenges US to provide fool-proof evidence

According to the US allegation, Mohammed Gololo (APC-Bauchi State) was accused of grabbing a hotel maid and soliciting sex, while two others, Samuel Ikon (PDP-Akwa Ibom) and Mark Gbillah (APC-Benue State) allegedly requested a car park attendant to help them arrange the services of prostitutes during a visit to Cleveland for the International Visitor Leadership Programme.

As public anger over the allegation of sexual misconduct levelled against three Nigerian lawmakers by the United States government continues to rage, Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has responded by asking the US to provide fool-proof evidence that the lawmakers are guilty of the allegations. 

The allegations were contained in a June 9 petition to the Speaker by American Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle. The three lawmakers denied the allegations separately, describing them as ‘totally false’, ‘calculated attempt to rubbish the National Assembly’ and ‘a case of mistaken identity’. However, in a series of tweets, Saturday, via his Twitter handle, @speakerdogara, Dogara, in response to questions from concerned Nigerians over the allegations, replied: “He who alleges must prove.” “That’s the law.” “As we speak, no evidence has been put forward other than the letter sent to my office and copied to many others.

“Together with the US Embassy in Nigeria, we will get to the bottom of this matter and until then, let’s not be judgemental. “Under our laws, an accused person is deemed innocent until proven guilty and he enjoys the benefit of any doubt.”

Dogara said the concerned lawmakers had indicated they were ready to stand trial in the US. “They are ready to do that at their own cost,” he tweeted. In further tweets, Dogara, however, warned of consequences for the lawmakers if proven guilty.

However, one of the lawmakers, Ikon, has dismissed the allegation as untrue, saying his identity had been mistaken. Ikon told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Saturday that the allegation was in bad taste.

He said that he was happy that the lower chamber had commenced the process of investigating the allegation, and expressed confidence that he would be cleared. He also said that he had briefed his lawyers to initiate legal and diplomatic steps to get to the root of the matter “to clear my name and the institution I represent”.

Meanwhile, a pro-democracy group, Centre for the Advancement of Literacy and Leadership (CALL) has described the fresh forgery suit by the Federal Government against the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, as a “witch-hunt and mischief”.

It also described the recently reported letter by the Police inviting Ekweremadu and some leaders of the last Senate for interrogation over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Orders 2011 as mischievous.

In a statement by the Executive Director of the Centre, Mazi Bismarck Oji, and made available to Sunday Telegraph, it recalled that the Assistant Force Public Relations Officer (AFPRO), Mr. Abayomi Shogunle, told newsmen at the Force Headquarters on July 6 last year, that although the police team met with the ex-Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr Salisu Maikasuwa, they neither invited nor interrogated Senator Ekweremadu.

Wondering the difficulty in sending an invitation to Saraki, Ekweremadu, Senator David Mark and others directly, instead of pretending to invite them through the Clerk, the Centre contended that it was untoward to file criminal charges against people on serious allegation as forgery without any active attempt to extract statements from them.

It will be recalled that the Federal Government has filed charges at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja, against Saraki and Ekweremadu, over the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, about a year after the submission of police report to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation by the police. Others also charged to court are the immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, Abubakar Maikasuwa, and the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, Benedict Efeturi.

However, missing on the list of those charged are the President of the 7th Senate, Senator David Mark, and former Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, who had since defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).