A bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Peace Corps has scaled second reading at the Senate.
The bill, sponsored by Borno senator, Ali Ndume, is one of the few bills that were read for the second time on Tuesday.
It was reintroduced to the ninth Senate on December 17, 2019, about two years after it was passed by the National Assembly in 2017.
In late December 2017, the bill arrived at the presidency for assent after it was transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by the former Clerk to the National Assembly, Sani Omolori.
The president, however, declined assent to the bill in February 2018, citing security concerns as one of the reasons for his decision.
The president also cited paucity of funds and duplication of duties of existing security agencies by the proposed corps as his main reasons.
His decision was conveyed in separate letters to the Senate and House of Representatives.
The bill seeks to turn the Peace Corps, a non-governmental organisation, into a government paramilitary agency. It also sought to give legal backing to the establishment of the Peace Corps as a government parastatal, and allow its members to be absolved into the proposed organisation at commencement.
Leading the debate, Mr Ndume said the bill had gone through all legislative processes, including public hearing and was overwhelmingly passed by both chambers of the National Assembly.
The core mandate of the corps, he said, is to develop, empower, and provide gainful employment for the youth to facilitate peace, volunteerism, community services, neighbourhood watch, nation-building and for other related matters.
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He said the bill would give statutory backing to the existing Peace Corps of Nigeria, which currently has over 187,000 members, comprising regular staff and volunteers with a well-structured network of branches in 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.
“Based on its laudable achievements over the years, the Peace Corps was accorded federal government recognition, through the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. On the international scene, the Corps was equally granted a Special Consultative Status by the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
“The Nigerian Peace Corps, when established, beside engaging millions of our unemployed youths on permanent basis, has the capacity of complementing the functions of conventional security agencies in the areas of developing its members as supporting agents of social order by providing a second-line of public safety,” he said as he urged his colleagues to support the bill.
The lawmaker also said all the issues raised by President Buhari for withholding assent to the bill in the 8th Senate had been addressed in the new bill.
The Senate leader, Abdullahi Yahaya, seconded the bill and urged his colleagues to give accelerated passage to it, since it had already gone through the rudiments of lawmaking at both chambers in the 8th National Assembly.
The legislation had no objections.
It was read for the second time and referred to the Senate Committee on Interior for further legislative actions. The committee is to report back in four weeks.
The Peace Corps bill was widely anticipated by many Nigerians who believed the creation of the corps will partly address the nation’s unemployment crisis. Many others, however, opposed the bill, saying it creates a new bureaucracy at a time existing security agencies are underfunded.
Some lawmakers had planned to veto the president’s rejection in 2017. But an attempt to override the president’s veto of the bill failed at the House of Representatives in May 2018.
It is, however, not clear if Mr Buhari will assent to it now.
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