Peace Corps of Nigeria and the quest for a legal framework

With the National Assembly set to transmit its establishment Bill to the President for assent a second time, what are the odds that he will consider it worthy this time? This is our focus on this week’s episode of #ThrowbackThursday
adminDecember 8, 20226 min

For anyone who has followed the controversial Peace Corps of Nigeria and the fight to give it legal backing, it’s been a stormy show. With the National Assembly set to transmit its establishment Bill to the President for assent a second time, what are the odds that he will consider it worthy this time? This is our focus on this week’s episode of #ThrowbackThursday

 

The Peace Corps of Nigeria was founded in 1998 by its National Commandant, Professor Dickson Ameh Akoh.

Incorporated in Nigeria under the Company and Allied Matters (CAMA) Act, it is accorded Federal Government recognition through the Federal Ministry of Youth Development.

It has a well-structured network of offices in the 36 States of the federation as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and a membership strength of over187,000 comprising of regular staff and volunteers.

The Peace Corps, amongst other functions, exist to:

  • Enlist, mobilise, train and orient the youth to develop them as supporting agents of social order by providing a second line of public safety.
  • Serve as a think-tank and educate residents of every community on security and safety measures peculiar to their neighbourhood.
  • Uphold bottom-up surveillance through monitoring, observation, evaluation and to detect, collate and analyse intelligence data on matters that may likely cause breach of peace and security within the neighbourhood and transmit to the Security Agency for action.
  • Engage in Peace Advocacy, Mediation and Conflict Resolution in Nigeria.
  • Secure educational institutions from intruders and to combat all forms of social decadence and vices.
  • Serve as a reservoir and springboard of skilled manpower as Adhoc Staff for providing social and community services.

 

READ ALSO: Four years after President’s decline, Reps pass Nigeria Peace Corps Bill

 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Having existed for over twenty years, there have been efforts to give legal backing to the existing organisation.

The first attempt to provide a legal framework for the bill is the Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill 2016. By December 2017, both chambers of the National Assembly had passed the bill and transmitted it to Mr President for assent through the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Sani Omolori.

While that of the Senate was sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Army, Senator Ali Ndume, the version of the House was sponsored by the Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Monguno as HB17.

President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent in February 2018, a decision he conveyed in a letter to the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. Amongst the reasons given by the President was his refusal to sign the bill into law, including security concerns and financial constraints of funding the organisation by the government .

On the sidelines of the fight for a legal framework, the Peace Corps has had a running battle with the Nigeria Police Force; resulting in the court asking the Corps to be paid N12.5 million as compensation. The police accused its National Commandant of using the Peace Corps, registered as a non-governmental organisation (but operating as a para-military agency), to fleece innocent young job seekers, which he denied.

 

THE RESURRECTION

On Wednesday, December 7, 2022, the Nigeria Peace Corps (NPC) Establishment Bill was again passed by the House of Representatives, having been previously passed by the Senate on April 12 2022.

While that of the Senate was sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Army, Senator Ali Ndume, the version of the House was sponsored by the Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Monguno as HB17.

Following its previous rejection, there have been criticisms against the proposed legislation, especially on contradictory clauses such as provisions for pensions when the job is supposed to be voluntary. Experts also argue that one of the reasons for the confusing security architecture in Nigeria is the proliferation of para-military and security organisations which has not served the country well.

 

READ ALSO: Praise of President Buhari for rejecting the Peace Corps Bill 

 

THE POSERS

Now that the National Assembly has passed the Peace Corps Bill for a second time, is the President likely to assent?

  • If assent was previously declined due to a paucity of funds, do we now have enough funds to float such an organisation?
  • Experts have argued that in most democratic countries, there is only the main police force, with divisions, specialised units, and branches to deal with particular crimes. Should this be a huge consideration on the mind of the President when the bill is sent back for his assent?
  • In May 2018, the House of Representatives attempted to override the veto of the President, which suffered a setback due to insufficient numbers of voice votes. With the election around the corner, would the lawmakers in either of the chambers be attempting the same if the President turns down assent a second time?

 

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