The Commandant of the Nigerian Peace Corps, Dickson Akoh, has said he believes President Muhammadu Buhari “may have been misled” into rejecting the Peace Corps bill.
Mr. Akoh said this at a press briefing organised by the Council of Commandants and Board of Trustees of the corps in Abuja on Friday to review the development.
Insisting that no security agency in Nigeria is currently performing the functions envisaged for the corps, the commandant called on the president “to reevaluate and reconsider his decision to withhold his assent” to the Peace Corps bill.
The president earlier this week declined to sign into law the Nigerian Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill passed by the National Assembly late 2017.
In a letter read by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Tuesday, Mr. Buhari cited security concerns and financial implications among reasons for his decision to withhold his assent to the bill.
But Mr. Akoh said the president’s decision was not strange to him.
“Let me tell you, on 15th of January, the same security agencies that opposed the bill went to Mr. President and told him that instead of voting money to create a new establishment, they should use it to improve the efficiency of their own activities.”
Mr. Akoh said the security agencies had vowed after the passage of the bill by the National Assembly to do everything to forestall the president’s assent.
“The functions of the Nigerian Peace Corps as succinctly captured in the Bill do not in any way conflict with the functions of any existing security agencies but is absolutely civil, which is to observe as an arbiter of peace, youth volunteerism, maintaining and sustaining a level of pro-activeness and courier of information for impending nefarious activities and plots that can lead to the breakdown of peace and order anywhere in Nigeria.
“The role of the Peace Corps is clearly distinct from that of conventional security and paramilitary organisations, hence its placement under the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youths Development. The powers conferred on the Nigerian Peace Corps in the Bill do not also involve arms bearing, investigation, detention and prosecution.
“Similar organisations like the Nigerian Peace Corps exist in several other countries of the world, including the American Peace Corps, Canadian Peace Corps, Bangladesh National Cadet Corps, Peace Officers Commission in China, Chinese Labour Corps, Lera Uniform Corps of Malaysia, Malaysian People Volunteer Corps, Production and Construction Corps of China,” Mr. Akoh said.
On the issue of funds, Mr. Akoh said the bill does not solely place the burden of funding the corps on the federal government, as international donor agencies are also encapsulated to give grants and donations to it.
“Peace has never been costlier than crisis and the price for peace is inestimable. One of the principal objectives of the Peace Corps is deployment to schools and colleges to promote peace, sniff and sieve intelligence. This could have prevented the recent abduction of our girls at the Girls Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe state”, he said.
He expressed sadness that a bill which was widely supported with over 500 memoranda, including government agencies, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, student bodies and others; was jettisoned “by advice from a few security agencies opposed to the establishment of the corps from the beginning.”
Mr. Akoh, however, said he would “continue to have esteem confidence in Mr. President’s leadership of this great country”, even as it acknowledged the support of the members of the National Assembly and numerous groups “as the journey continues.”
Meanwhile, a senator, Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), took to his official twitter page on Friday to urge President Buhari to rescind his decision on the Peace Corps Bill.
“The President should rescind his decision. He should sign the Peace Corps Bill. The organisation should be assigned to protect schools against gunmen and kidnappers,” Mr. Sani said.