…Lawmakers threaten redress …says US Ambassador is a racist
JONAS EZIEKE, EUCLID MYKE, Abuja
FOLLOWING the ongoing public investigation into the alleged sex scandal involving three lawmakers of the House of Representatives, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema has revealed that no case has been established against the lawmakers, adding that no collaborative evidence and steps have been taken in the United States to prosecute the lawmakers.
The Minister who spoke on behalf of United States Ambassador, James Entwistle told a joint committee of the House Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Foreign Relations that the principal witness who was the hotel house keeper was not prepared to testify and there was no collaborative evidence on the matter.
Hear him, “At this stage, it is some peoples words against other people’s words. The park attendant has made allegations that have been denied. The house keeper has made allegations that have been denied and she has refused to testify. So it will need a collaborative evidence to raise a case against the lawmakers.
“I have spoken with the US Ambassador, he did not present any collaborative evidence to me nor did he indicate that they have any collaborative evidence.
“On the issue of identity, it was based on some pictures and the passport. All he says is that he is not necessarily accusing the honourable members himself but he is just bringing to the attention of the house the allegations that were made and he has confirmed that those allegations were made and that is all.”
The Minister added that the lawmakers were banned from traveling to the United States because they were accused of walking out on the Deputy High Commissioner, Maria Brewer when they held a fence mending meeting, and the decision was taken by the Embassy as a punitive measure on the accused lawmakers.
Onyema was of the opinion that the lawmakers were at liberty to seek redress for defamation of character, adding that the allegation was weighty.
He equally admitted that the ambassador has apologized for the breach in Diplomatic protocol by writing directly to the minister instead of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
According to Onyema, “The US embassy has total discretion about issuance of visas, they do not have to give any reason. The acrimonious meeting between the embassy and a group where some groups walked away and spoke with the Deputy Ambassador on raised voice did not encourage a more sympathetic approach and that might have led to the revocation of the visa”.
Onyema informed the committee that the Ambassador feels that the leakage of the letter did not emanate from the embassy and called to question the security of the communication channel in National Assembly.
“The media trial of the three lawmakers is quite unfair. The ambassador never believed the lawmakers committed the crime but they are not prepared to talk about the matter anymore. For them, the matter has ended. It is open for defamation action to be brought for any further action.
“The three members have not been charged or convicted of any crime. The allegations were deep and should not be taken lightly.
In a swift reaction, the accused lawmakers have accused the minister of shielding the ambassador, insisting that the embassy erred by revoking the visas of the lawmakers even when they were not interrogated.
Hon. Stella Ngwu (Enugu) denied walking away from the Deputy High Commissioner, insisting that it was Ms. Brewer who rather walked away twice during the reconciliatory session at the Embassy.
On his part, Hon. Tobi Okechukwu expressed displeasure over their three years entry ban saying that they have been incapacitated from accessing justice in the US.
The committee co-chairman, Hon. Nnenna Ukeje said that the diplomatic community should realize that there is a channel of communication which must be respected by all our friends and partners.
Meanwhile, Hon. Mark Terseer Gbilla (Benue) who is one of the accused members said that the letter was not private as it was copied to ten other persons, insisting that the accusation did not in any way come up while they were still in the United States.
Briefing the press, Hon. Mark Gbillah(Benue) accused the Ambassador of racism.
Citing past racist activities exhibited by the Ambassador and Ohio city, the lawmaker revealed that on the 29th of June, 2016 the same Marriot Hotel employee raised another false allegations against an Emirate business man, receiving medical treatment at Cleveland clinic Ohio by a hotel clerk, accusing him of pledging allegiance to ISIS in the hotel lobby because he was dressed in his traditional attire and making phone calls in Arabic which unknown to the employee was related to his attempt to find alternative accommodation in Cleveland.
“A Havard University study and other related research have identified Ohio and the City of Cleverland as being among the top ten most racist locations in the United States, Gbillah said. ”
The lawmaker posed the following questions: What is the identity of the accusers? Why are they concealing the identity of the car park attendants? Why has the video/cctv footage of the entire stay in the hotel not provided by the embassy? Why was the Ambassador quick to revoke the visas of the accused lawmakers without inviting the lawmakers? Why were the accused members not accosted while in the US so they could defend themselves?
“It is also not impossible that these allegations might be part of a larger clandestine political agenda against the National Assembly as an Institution or Individual members like me who have been very vocal against certain activities of genocide against the immediate and larger constituency in Benue State. Political opponents and other detractors have already cashed campaigns of calumny against me and my colleagues.”
“My pursuit of legal action against related parties is at a very advanced stage and has only been suspended because of my desire not to preempt the outcome of this investigative panel. I will not relent until justice prevails and will stand still to see the salvation of my living God who will surely vindicate me,” said Gbillah.
The Committee Chairman, Hon. Nicholas Ossai said that Entwistle must send a Diplomatic apology for bridging diplomatic protocol.