The Reps sex scandal – The Sun
Three members of the House of Representatives, Messrs Mark Gbillah, Mohammed Garba Gogolo and Samuel Ikon, along with seven of their colleagues, attended a week-long International Visitor Leadership Programme in Cleveland, Ohio, United States in April. They returned with a whiff of a scandal relating to inappropriate sexual solicitations. Mr. Gololo was alleged to have groped a housekeeper in his hotel room and solicited her for sex. Messrs Gbillah and Ikon, on their part, allegedly requested hotel parking attendants to assist them to solicit prostitutes.
Credit must go to the management of the Residence Inn Marriott of Downtown Cleveland which calmly reported the incidents to its customer, the US State Department. It could easily have called in the police.
Part of the irony in this scandal is that the programme the legislators participated in was called 'the International Visitor Leadership Programme on Good Governance.' It is a US Government-sponsored flagship professional exchange programme and great care is taken to brief participants on the code of conduct and standard of behaviour expected from them.
Obviously displeased with the alleged conduct of our lawmakers, the US Government, through its Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, petitioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Yakubu Dogara, complaining about the 'troubling allegations regarding the behaviour' of the three legislators. The Speaker initially ignored the petition until some members expressed concern about the implication of sweeping the issue under the carpet.
It is appropriate that the House has set up a joint committee on Ethics, Privileges and Foreign Affairs, to investigate the allegations. The House of Representatives is, however, not known for producing tangible results from its investigations. We hope it will do itself a favour and prove the pessimists wrong on this matter.
The three legislators named in this scandal have typically denied the accusations. Mr. Gbillah waxed politically righteous and described the US Ambassador's letter as an attempt 'to bring disrepute to the hallowed institution of the National Assembly and the entire nation of Nigeria.'
It is good that the United States limited its response to the alleged misconduct of the lawmakers to a letter to the Speaker of Nigeria's House of Representatives. Had the US government decided to press charges against the legislators, the police could have been called in to arrest, arraign and prosecute them. Even if they were eventually acquitted, they would have been dragged through the US court system, with the attendant bad publicity for them and Nigeria. This would be quite apart from the legal costs of their defence.
The allegations against the lawmakers are unfortunate. Members of the House of Representatives are regarded as high officers of the government of Nigeria and are expected to conduct themselves in a way that will not make them open to such grievous allegations.
The 'Leadership Programme on Good Governance' is a highly respected and educative initiative which exposes participants to best practices in leadership and governance. Participants who represent their countries at such programmes are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that will bring honour and respect to their countries. It is regrettable that the participation of our own legislators in the programme seemingly brought the country into disrepute.
Since the House of Representatives has elected to investigate these allegations, we urge it to do a thorough job. It should conduct a dispassionate investigation which can earn it the respect of the Nigerian people. Its objective should not be to sweep the allegations under the carpet. What Nigerians want is a thorough investigation that will unearth the facts of the matter. Anything other than this will be a great disservice to the country. It is important to establish the veracity or otherwise of these allegations and learn the right lessons from them to ensure that they do not recur.