Union minister MJ Akbar on Wednesday attended a ceremony in Nigeria celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Akbar is currently leading a 70-member business delegation at a conclave in the African country.

The Indian High Commission in Abuja confirmed that Akbar, along with Union minister CR Chaudhary, were present at the week-long event.

Akbar also delivered a lecture at the Nigerian Army Resource Centre amid rising demands for his resignation over sexual harassment charges in India. On Wednesday, the Congress demanded a reply from Akbar to the sexual harassment allegations against him, or step down from his position. At least eight journalists have so far accused the veteran journalist of sexually harassing them in the past.

Congress leader Jaipal Reddy told reporters that Akbar needs to offer a “satisfactory explanation”, PTI reported. “How can he be in the ministry with serious allegations being levelled against him,” Reddy said.

While the Samajwadi Party has also demanded his resignation, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sack him.

Since October 5, several women have used social media to make allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against various journalists, media professionals and writers.

So far, the minister of state has not posted anything on social media since the allegations surfaced.

The first woman to name Akbar in her allegations pointed out that he has harassed women in the past as well, while he was a member of the Congress.

‘Speaking out requires courage’: Defence minister

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman refused to comment on whether the government will act against Akbar. She told News18 that she is “not the right person to comment on it”. “I can’t speak on it. But, I do support the courage with which many of these women are speaking up because...Speaking out requires courage...I support them for that.”

On Tuesday, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj also evaded a question on the government’s position regarding Akbar.