It was on the evening of May 9, 17 men had come to a Nigerian restaurant located along Landover road, Maryland. There they met some Nigerians who helped them out. One of them introduced himself as the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly and others identified themselves including a lady lawmaker, Omawumi Udoh.
One of them called our reporter aside to inquire about the prospect of real estate business and whatever business prospect in the United States. He introduced himself as Martin Okonta, a member of the Delta State House of Assembly. Mr. Okonta told our reporter that he was tired of doing business in Nigeria and wanted to see the possibility of exploring the United States for business.
In what can be termed as a confession of the assembly delegation's true intention of coming to the US, Mr. Okonta told our reporter that he has 42 houses all over Nigeria and just bought a N14Million house in Abuja trying to prove that he has resources to do business in the US. After this, Africananews.com tried to invesitigate their mission in the US by calling the Speaker, Mr. Young Igbrude on Friday May 12 and he gave our reporter an appointment for 8 am Saturday, but when we called the hotel (New Carrollton Hotel along Annapolis Road), we were told that he had checked out. We called the cell phones of the assemblymen but they have been turned off.
We were lucky to get one of them who refused to identify himself. According to him, the Speaker and others have left for London to attend a Parliamentary Seminar. When asked on their mission to the United States, he said they came to attend a Parliamentary Seminar in Maryland. The honorable member refused to answer question on the nature of the seminar. He said he was not competent to talk to the press but that the Speaker would be in the best position to answer our questions and he did not give us the contact number of the Speaker who is now in the United Kingdom.
Africananews enquiry from the Maryland General Assembly revealed that the 17-man delegation came from Nigeria to attend a 4-hour briefing on Maryland budget and legislative processes. According to Ms. Patricia Harrison, Visitors Program Coordinator of the Library and Information Services, Office of Policy Analysis, department of Legislative Services, the tour took place on Wednesday, May 10 2006. She said of the 17 Assembly members who were billed to attend only 13 came.
We were told that their spouses accompanied them for the 4-hour tour. According to the agenda of the event presented to us by Ms. Harrison, the tour started at 9.30am, they visited the Historic Rooms and Chambers of Maryland State House. At 10am, Lynne Porter, Executive Assistant, Office of the Executive Director, department of Legislative Services, briefed them on Legislative Process. At 11am, Jennifer Chasse, Senior Policy Analyst Staff, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Office of Policy Analysis, Department of Legislative Services, briefed them on Budget process and at 12pm the tour ended.
According to Ms. Harrison, 20 more members are coming for same tour on May 19 2006. One Mr. Tony Odiadi, who is also the Legal Adviser to the Delta State House of Assembly, coordinates the program, according to Ms. Harrison.
We have also confirmed that the Speaker of the House, unlike normal protocol, did not inform the Nigerian embassy in Washington DC of his presence in the United States
We have contacted Mr. Odiadi for comments but he has not responded to our requests. Though we do not have the list of those who took part in the May 10 tour, we have the list of the 20 people billed for the May 19, 2006 tour. They are as follows:
1.Hon. Pius Ewherido- Dep. Speaker
2.Hon. Funkekeme Solomon- Minority Leader
3.Hon. Frank Enekorogha
4.Hon. Victor Ochei
5.Hon. Silas Buowe
6.Hon. Harvest Igben
7.Hon. Misan Ukubehinje
8.Hon. Basil Ganagana
9.Hon. Sam Obi
10. Hon. Reginald Dombraye
11. Hon. Dr. (Mrs) Felicia Nwaeze
12. Hon. Akpodiagaga Emeyese
13. Hon. George Oyefia
14. Hon. Omizu Odebala
15. Hon. Ross Uredi
16. Hon. Anderson Mekoma
17. Hon. Gibson Akporehe
17. Sir Jacob Iyamu-Clerk
18. Barr. Tony Odiadi-Legal Adviser (coordinator)
19. Mr. Anthony Aki- Director Legislative Services
20. Mr. Basil Esekemuemu- Special Assistant