By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE three members of the House of Representatives accused of improper conduct, attempted rape and soliciting for prostitutes in Ohio, the United States of America, yesterday told the leadership of the House to convoke a public investigative hearing on the allegations against them.
This is as one of the accused lawmaker, Mark Gbillah, who represents Gwer East/Gwer West Federal Constituency of Benue State, denied any culpability in the allegation, saying he had never cheated on his wife since he got married. Meanwhile, speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who presided over the plenary, referred the allegations to the Committees on Ethics and Privileges and Foreign Affairs to carry out investigations on the matter.
Dogara also cautioned commentators on the allegation to tread with caution as an accused was assumed innocent until proven guilty. The three members, according to a letter from the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, to the speaker are Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi); Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue).
Entwistle had in the petition to Dogara, alleged that the actions of the three lawmakers at the International Visitor Leadership Programme, brought disrepute to the parliament. He alleged that they solicited for sex from prostitutes and grabbed hotel housekeeper in a bid to rape. Relying on House Order 6, Rule 20 and 22 that deals with privileges of members, Gbillah stated that it was important that the matter be specifically addressed on the floor of the House, adding that the allegation was completely false.
Speaking on behalf of the other accused members, the Benue State-born lawmaker said: “For my colleagues who don’t know me and Nigerians out there, I want to categorically state here, for any avoidance of doubt, that no such incident occurred. “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. “I want to say that this is calculated to tarnish the image of the three members and this very hallowed institution.
And I caution Nigerians who are quick to conclusion, I want to state categorically for all Nigerians to know again, that I love my wife without reservation. “I only have eyes for my wife. I have never cheated on her. I wish she was able to come to this hallowed chambers to testify to this. I went on this trip with my wife and my baby. I travel everywhere I go with my wife and baby.”
Maintaining his innocence on the allegations, Gbillah, who said he had travelled to many parts of the world without any allegation against him, efforts should be made immediately to invite the U.S. Ambassador to come and testify with evidence before his tenure runs out in Nigeria. He also insisted that the investigation should be through public hearing, so the public would know the truth in the allegation. Besides, he said non of the accused was interrogated either in the United States or in the US Embassy in Nigeria before the ambassador rushed to make his conclusions. “We are in the eye of the storm, we demand justice should be done,” Gbillah in an emotional voice stated.
Making her contribution, Nnenna Elendu Ukeje, said that the issue had become a matter between Nigeria and the United States, adding that it was an issue that dealt on strategic relationship between the two countries. Ukeje, who represents Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State, advised the committees handling the matter not to in any way jeopardise the relationship between the two countries.
While referring the matter to the Committees on Ethics and Privileges and Foreign Affairs, the speaker said the matter was a very serious one where many people had come to with the conclusion that the three lawmakers were wrong.
She said anybody thinking that the matter was only about the there members or the House alone was wrong, stressing that if the matter was not properly investigated, it could be extended to other Nigerians. She said that going by the House Rule, any such allegation of impropriety was always referred to the Committee on Ethics. “I have appointed the Committee on Foreign Affairs to join in the investigation because of the diplomatic relationship. “The standard in the US is that an accused is assumed innocent until proven guilty and that is the same standard in Nigeria. Any one who has