Peace Corps: The drama of a failed Bill




The Nigeria Peace Corps had, over the years, been in existence with no much attention given to it until attempts at making it one of the nation’s security outfits, through an Act of the National Assembly. JOSHUA EGBODO writes.
Peace Corps’ near success story Repeated efforts at doing so also did not gain the needed breakthroughs, until the current assembly of the federal parliament, where it was a nearsuccess story. President Muhammadu Buhari, however, truncated the much expected outcome by declining assent to the Bill, which would have legally established the outfi t as a government owned agency.
The President cited security implications of creating such an organistaion, functions of which as outlined in the Bill, were already being undertaken by existing law enforcement agencies. The Corps’ duplicated functions The President’s position on the likely clash of interests and functions, which may jeopardize the nation’s security was nothing really new, as there were such stern oppositions to the passage of the Bill, especially by the Nigeria Police, during its public hearing in the House of Representatives. But another reason put forward by the President in his communication to the House was paucity of fund to meet the operational needs of the planned agency, which, to many, was to a great extent germane.
Hope raised, dashed The House was later to insist that it will take up the Bill again, and possibly override the President’s veto in the interest of jobless Nigerian youths. And true to its resolve, the Bill was alongside others, which the President had either communicated his decision to withhold assent, and some which he did not express any opinion, the House reintroduced them, including the 2010 Electoral Act amendment Bill. While wisdom seemed to have played up as the House decided to expunge the controversial election reordering clauses in the Electoral Act, and passed the other amendments last week, the Nigeria Peace Corps Bill dramatically suff ered a thorough blow, as it could not scale second reading on the fl oor of the House.
To followers of events surrounding the House’s vow to override the President’s veto, it was the second time in quick succession that the House of Representatives failed to push through its threat, as the u-turn made on the election sequence reordering move was just a case yet in question. In what would have set the stage for the House to override Buhari’s veto on the Bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Peace Corps, charged with the responsibility to develop, empower and provide gainful employment for the Youth, facilitate peace, volunteerism, community service, neighbourhood watch and nation-building; and for related matters, sponsored by Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, failed as majority of members voted nay.
Orker-Jev had in his lead debate on the general principles of the reintroduced Bill, argued that “Apart from the jobs that would be created through the establishment of the Peace Corps, it will complement the activities of other security agencies like the Police and the Civil Defence, to maintain law and order in the country”, noting that Buahri’s reasons were not strong enough to get Bill discarded, especially with the modifi cations introduced. His submissions set the stage for several other lawmakers to make contributions. Some members who backed passage of the Bill bill include: Tahir Monguno, Ndubisi Lovette, Jonathan Gaza, Goni Lawal, Rita Orji, and Sunday Adepoju, as they believed that the agency, when established, will provide platforms for thousands of unemployed youths to serve their fatherland, as well as reduce social vices prevalent in the age bracket. Chairman of the House Committee on the Army, Rimande Shawulu specifi cally argued that the recent practice of government in deploying the military to handle challenges that should be responsibilities of civil security agencies, was a clear demonstration of the inherent inadequacies. “There is need for us to bridge the gap in internal security.
Actually there is a very wide gap in policing of this country”, he noted as he supported passage of the Bill. On the other hand, some members, including Chief Whip of the House, Ado Doguwa, Ossai Nicholas Ossai, and Musa Adar insisted that the President should be listened to. “At least for the first time, I am praising Mr. President. If we as a House make mistake, we should be able to correct ourselves”, Osai stated while urging the House to drop the Bill. Peace Corps undoing Doguwa and Adar separately argued that the Peace Corps has been dragged to court over corruption related issues as well as allegations that the Corps deployed huge sums of money to bribe lawmakers in getting the Bill passed, and noted that passing the Bill would be an action that may be tantamount to endorsing corrupt practices. Adar noted that there were allegations of N50,000 collected from each applicants, and the money used to settle members of the National Assembly.
Against the prior stance of the House through its spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas, that it will override the President’s veto on the Bill however, when Speaker Yakubu Dogara eventually put the question for voice votes on the second reading of the proposed law, majority voted against its the passage, signalling its death as far as the eighth assembly of the House is concerned. House’s suddenly realisation? Questions are now being asked on whether the House was just realizing the non-practicability of the Bill, or if it were a case of politics, high power intimidation, and some clandestine sentiments later taking over the stage. Fingers were pointed at even the police which over time, had the headquarters of the Corps in Abuja under seal, even against court vacation order. Others have blamed the National Commandant of the Corps, Mr. Dickson Akoh of not applying the right ‘lobbying tactics’.
For now, the Bill is a rested case in the House, since according to its rules, it cannot be reintroduced until the expiration of the current assembly. Many analysts have however described the journey so far as a monumental waste of time and resources, whether in the alleged bribery to members of the parliament, or paid for no value by innocent Nigerians, who believed in the course. To them, it was a dramatic turn of events, and will for long time so remain.

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