absence of the outgoing US ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Goeffrey Onyema stalled yesterday’s investigative hearing on the alleged sex scandal levelled against three lawmakers.
The probe, earlier slated to hold on July 11, 2016 was later shifted to July 14, 2016 to allow all major stakeholders to attend.
Some stakeholders, including the three accused lawmakers and journalists, had gathered to witness the unfolding drama, but there was mixed feelings when the joint Committee Chairman on Ethics and Privileges, Hon Ossai Nicholas Ossai was forced to adjourn the hearing to July 20 due to the absence of Entwistle and Onyema.
Entwistle was supposed to furnish the joint committees on Ethics and Privileges and Foreign Relations video evidence he had promised earlier against the indicted members following his earlier petition to the Speaker of the House, Hon Yakubu Dogara.
The outgoing US envoy had in the petition to Dogara alleged that the actions of the three lawmakers at the International Visitor Leadership Programme in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, from 7th to 13th April, 2016, brought disrepute to the parliament by soliciting for sex from prostitutes and grabbing hotel housekeeper in a bid to rape.
The three accused lawmakers include: Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi); Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue).
At Thursday’s hearing, Ossai insisted that the Entwistle must appear before the committee having lost his immunity status.
But the Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Relations, Hon Uchenna Elendu-Ukeje, said according to the Vienna Convention, Entwistle has diplomatic immunity that states clearly that he shall not appear before any investigative hearing.
Ossai explained that the outgoing US envoy, having breached the Vienna Convention on diplomatic matters, communicated directly to the speaker when he was supposed to pass the message via the minister, must unfailingly appear before the committee accompanied by the minister to answer questions relating to the allegation made against the lawmakers.
He said that the committee was postponing the investigative hearing based on the excuse obtained by the minister that he would be unavailable because he was attending the 29th Ordinary Session of African Union holding in Kigali, Rwanda.
According to Ossai: “With the ambassador of the United States of America writing straight to the speaker of the Nigerian parliament, he has tactically waved his own right as regards the Vienna Convention.
“We have routed our letter through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, since it is the proper channel to communicate and I believe that we are expecting both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the ambassador will be interacting with us to unravel this issue. That is what this committee is all about. On this ground, having listened to everybody, I will adjourn this public hearing to 20th July, 2016”
Elendu-Ukeje ssid: “I also share the passion of all concerning this very weighty allegations.
“The reason for this postponement is premised on the fact that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has agreed to engage with the American ambassador on this particular matter and we felt it was necessary for him to come and brief us on the insight of what their deliberation was.
“With regards to the US ambassador, he has diplomatic immunity, the Vienna Convention states clearly that he shall not appear before any investigative hearing. That is why we invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs. As to the question whether he breached the channel of communication by writing directly to the Honourable Speaker, that is an issue for us to ask him whether he is aware.
“We on the Foreign Relations Committee are aware that for him to engage with any arm of government shall be through the foreign ministry and that is the reason why we as a committee shall take the proper channel of communication, invite the honourable minister of foreign affairs who has invited the US ambassador to come and engage this committee and we shall decide when to invite the US ambassador to come and share more light on the allegations”.
Earlier, the Executive-Director, the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, a civil society organization, argued that there ought to be a representative from the American embassy since the embassy is an institution and not an individual.
Ugolor maintained that since the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have been in attendance since the ministry was out of the country.
He stressed that a strong message be sent to the outgoing US envoy and the minister, adding that shifting the hearing without tenable reason might send the wrong signal.

READ ALSO  Ese Oruru: IYC commends media, urges arrest of alleged abductors