The last has definitely not been heard of the weighty allegations of attempted rape and solicitation of prostitutes levelled against some members of the House of Representatives by the outgoing American Ambassador to Nigeria, James F. Entwistle as the House Committee saddled with the responsibility of investigating the matter is yet to turn in its report.
Social media and some Nigerians seem to have returned a guilty verdict on the Honourable members while the case is still being investigated. Much as we hold America in very high esteem, it’s risky to raise her and her officials to the impossible height of infallibility. Why are we inclined towards believing that America is right and the Honourable members culprits?
Hon. Sam Ikon was said to have asked a hotel staff to help him solicit a prostitute.
Although the man has expectedly put up his defense this piece is concerned with certain unasked but nagging questions arising from the scandal and accusation. If we learn to exercise some restraint and reflect a little, we will always ask questions before jumping at premature conclusions. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that issues bordering on people’s reputation should be treated with utmost circumspect by both the media and other Nigerians. Since reputation is a very costly asset, the standard of proof in criminal cases which requires the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt should apply . This has become necessary considering how easily people lose their hard earned names to mere allegations and conjectures. Nobody should be made to suffer such fate regardless of the allegations made and who made them.
In this case, it is said that it was the hotel which reported Hon. Ikon and his colleagues to the authorities. It’s also alleged that Hon Ikon did this solicitation through a security staff. Ordinarily, guests are expected to have interface with front desk staff and maybe room keepers, especially considering the fact that being a visitor, it was unlikely that he drove himself or was driven by his driver to the hotel. Under what circumstance did he meet the said security staff? Did he go out of his way to do that?
America is widely acknowledged for her commitment to fairness, equity, rule of law, due process etc. Can we confidently say that these ideals have applied in the light of the reputational damage already done to the Legislators when they are yet to be found guilty as charged by a court of competent jurisdiction either in Nigeria or America?
Moreso, there’s a serious issue of a probable breach of diplomatic protocol by the Ambassador. It seems that the American Embassy should have reported this matter to the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, not the Speaker, House of Representatives. What was the motive behind such breach of procedure? Curiously, the said letter containing the allegations against the Legislators was leaked to the Press, possibly to engender media trial of the Legislators for a pre-determined outcome.
Legally speaking, investigations have shown that soliciting a prostitute is a crime in most States of America but nothing suggests that asking a third party to help a person do so as alleged against Hon Sam Ikon violates any Law in that country or in the State of Ohio where this incident allegedly occurred. This calls to question what the American Ambassador seeks to protect by levelling these allegations against the Legislators. Is it the American Law or some other interests unknown to us?
Another fundamental weakness of the American case against Hon Ikon and his colleagues is the inability or refusal of their accuser to tender a video or audio recording of the conversations to authenticate the allegations before right thinking members of the public. We should take for granted that a society as sophisticated and advanced as America shouldn’t have a challenge with such recordings.
While we await the outcome of the investigation instituted by the leadership of the House of Representatives and possible legal fireworks resulting therefrom, it’s important we allow the presumption of innocence in favour of Hon. Sam Ikon and his colleagues. For now, it’s only God and the accused that know the truth. Every other opinion or belief is a mere conjecture.
By Omen BASSEY