Nicholas Ossai, the chairman of House Ethics, Privileges and Foreign Affairs Committee, tasked with investigating a petition by the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, said on Thursday that the diplomat should honour the committee’s invitation to substantiate his claims.
Mr. Ossai said Mr. Entwistle’s failure to appear before the committee would make its job difficult, adding that the ambassador should have confidence in the competence of the House to punish offending members.
Mr. Entwistle, in a petition he addressed to House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, on June 9, said Mohammed Galolo, Samuel Ikon and Mark Gbillah indulged in sexual misbehavior at a hotel in the U.S. when the three lawmakers travelled there for a leadership program.
The petition immediately became a nationwide sensation, with many Nigerians calling for an immediate reprimand of the named lawmakers.
The lawmakers have vehemently denied the allegations and called for a thorough investigation.
On June 16, Mr. Dogara commissioned the Ethics, Privileges and Foreign Affairs Committee to carry out a holistic investigation into the “embarrassing” development and appointed Mr. Ossai to chair it.
Mr. Ossai said his committee spent the ensuing three weeks designing modalities for the investigation and fixed July 14 for the first public hearing into the matter.
“We looked forward to see the Ambassador and the Minister of Foreign Affairs but the minister said he won’t be available until after July 19,” Mr. Ossai said. “That’s why we rescheduled their appearance to July 20.”
Mr. Ossai said Mr. Entwistle should bring forth all proofs that were in his possession and trust the House leadership to mete out punishment to any lawmaker found to have breached the House code of ethics.
“You have accused people that they committed a crime, you should substantiate it and trust the Nigerian National Assembly to sanction anybody that breached the code of ethics,” Mr. Ossai said.
Mr. Ossai said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is key to the investigation because the House had been communicating with the Ambassador through official diplomatic channels.
“The Ambassador committed an error in writing to the Speaker directly,” Mr. Ossai said, “but we’ve been writing to him through the Minister of Foreign Affairs in accordance with diplomatic protocol and that’s why he’s key to this investigation.”
Mr. Ossai, therefore, urged Mr. Entwistle to honour his committee’s invitation and not leave Nigerians in dark for too long about his allegations.
“As I’ve said, July 20 is another date we gave him and we hope he’ll do Nigerians timely honour of presenting evidence to substantiate those details he painted in his petition,” Mr. Ossai said.
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