Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Thursday, said the outgoing United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, did not have any credible evidence to prove the allegations of sexual misconduct against three members of the House of Representatives.
The allegations are being investigated by the Joint House Committee on Ethics/Privileges and Foreign Relations chaired by Mr. Nicholas Ossai and Ms.Nnena Ukeje.
On Thursday, Onyeama said Entwistle, who wrote a petition to the Speaker,House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara on the alleged sexual misconduct against the lawmakers, did not provide any concrete evidence that would have proved the allegations.
Entwistle, in his June 9 letter to Dogara, alleged that the members behaved inappropriately towards a hotel housekeeper and solicited the services of car park attendants to get prostitutes for them.
Testifying before the committees in Abuja, the minister said Entwistle told him that all he did was to bring the allegations to the attention of Dogara, not that the US Government passed any judgment of guilt on the Nigerian legislators.
He said Entwistle described his letter as a “Private, confidential letter” to Dogara, merely to draw his attention to the fact that the allegations were made against his members, who visited the US in April.
“He told me that these were allegations and nothing more; that as far as they were concerned, the matter was closed.”That the allegations did not indicate a position that the ambassador had already passed a judgment or the US Government,” Onyeama stated.
The minister said he was upset by the response of the ambassador and further asked for the evidence that led to his writing to Dogara.
Onyeama said Entwistle replied that the letter was written based on the allegations made by a hotel housekeeper and the park attendants just to keep Dogara informed of the development.
“For the parking lot attendants, the ambassador said they identified the lawmakers in photographs.”I replied that there is clearly a possibility of a legal proceeding for defamation because I thought there was stronger evidence.
Again, he apologised that his only point of writing Dogara was to pass information about those allegations.
” House members asked Onyeama to explain why the US withdrew the visas of the lawmakers if Entwistle claimed that there was no judgment or concrete evidence to prove the allegations.
” When asked what could be the possible penalties against the ambassador for his conduct, Onyeama said nothing could be done outside of the fact that the members could sue for defamation of character.
Onyeama told the committees that the fact of the allegations being made in the first place without concrete evidence was a lesson for Nigerians on how to conduct themselves in other countries.
She added, “Again, I am disturbed that there was no evidence like video recording, DNA; something strong to prove the allegations.
“We will take this fight to the very end and the ambassador must take full responsibility for this harm he did to us,” he said.
Ikon disagreed with the claim of the ambassador that he intended the letter to be a private, confidential communication between him and Dogara.
The three legislators were on a team of 10 members nominated to attend the leadership programme, which took place in Cleveland, Ohio, between April 7 and 13 this year.
While there, Entwistle’s petition alleged they solicited the services of prostitutes through car park attendants and assaulted a female hotel housekeeper.