Nigerian legislators could override President Muhammadu Buhari if he vetoes the Nigerian Peace Corps bill which seeks to make the private organisation an agency of government, Speaker Yakubu Dogara said on Tuesday.
In an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, the speaker said the National Assembly believes the Peace Corps will bolster Nigeria’s current security and law enforcement capabilities.
If the president “doesn’t assent for whatever reason” to the Peace Corps Bill, “we are at liberty to recall it back to parliament and muster the two-thirds in the House and Senate and pass in spite of Mr. President’s veto,” Mr. Dogara said.
Mr. Dogara, however, said any action to be taken by the lawmakers would be determined by Mr. Buhari’s reaction to the bill, already passed by each of the chambers of the National Assembly.
The National Assembly’s passage of the Peace Corps Bill despite strong opposition from existing government agencies has set the group on a collision course with the police, State Security Service and the Nigerian Army.
On February 28, the Nigerian Army, police and the SSS in a coordinated mission stormed the Peace Corps’ head office in Abuja, arresting its founder, Dickson Akoh, and other national leaders while shutting the facility down.
The next day, the police paraded Mr. Akoh and his officials, 49 in total, and accused them of running an outlawed organisation with intent to perpetrate fraud and jeopardise national security.
The police said a 2013 “official gazette” of the Nigerian government “dissolved and proscribed illegal security outfits” which included the Peace Corps.
Mr. Akoh, who heads the Peace Corps as its national commandant, and his officials were later released, but their office remained shut nationwide.
He was, however, rearrested on March 19, and has remained in police custody ever since.
But the Speaker said the parliament will not be distracted by the antics of existing security agencies, adding that the country cannot spend too much on security.
“We cannot overspend on the issue of protecting the lives and the properties of our citizens, we cannot,” he said.
‘A PRIDE OF THE SOCIETY’
Mr. Dogara said the police and other security agencies were acting in a manner similar to how they treated the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, in the run up to its adoption by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
The Head of Service of the Federation, Independent National Electoral Commission, National Security Adviser, Ministry of Interior and the Federal Ministry of Health joined other security agencies to kick against passage of the Peace Corps bill in the National Assembly last year, citing issues from lack of sufficient funds to duplication of duties.
Most of them opposed establishment of the NSCDC, and its founder, Ade Abolurin, was arrested on numerous occasions.
Today, Mr. Dogara said, the NSCDC has become a force for good in the country, perhaps even more than the police.
“That was the same argument when the Civil Defence Bill was before the House, that it could not be funded, that they were divulging some of the powers of the police to the Civil Defence— that it would never work.
“At the end of the day all these were surmounted and now we have the Civil Defence that in some cases some citizens have said that they are more dependable than the conventional police.
“I see them everywhere I travel to and they have become a pride of the society,” Mr. Dogara said.
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