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Peace Corps: Dickson Akoh breaks silence on rejection of bill

Written By Idoma Television on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 | 9:17:00 AM

 The news of President Muhammudu Buhari withholding his assent to the Bill for an Act to Establish the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC) was received as a huge shock. The rejection has however opened a new chapter and it is our desired hope that legislative actions will be taken by the two Chambers of the National Assembly.

Recall that when Chief Olusegun Obansajo as President and Commander-in-Chief rejected the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Bill, and returned same to the National Assembly, they invoked section 58 (4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution to override the President’s rejection.

This section states, ‘where the President withholds his assent and the Bill is again passed by two-third majority, the Bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.’ Similarly, when President Olusegun Obasanjo withheld his assent on the Freedom of Information Act, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on assuming office as President, assented to the Bill.

Let me state without any fear of contradiction and equipped with documented evidence, the rejection of the Bill was at the instance of the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, State Security Service and the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (a relatively unknown organization). Their ill advice to Mr. President was premised on primitive, premeditated, parochial and primordial sentiments. Like cases in the past, the letter transmitted to the National Assembly on NPC Bill never made specific reference to any section of NPC being in conflict with any security agency. Besides, PCN, a uniformed organization, never told anyone that it is a security agency, rather, a Youth Development Agency out to complement conventional Security Agencies by being pre-emptive to youth vulnerability to crimes and other acts of insecurities.

Though the rejection is a temporary setback, it has only succeeded in delaying the expectations of youths and other well-meaning Nigerians. It is ridiculous that one of the reasons stated was that there is no money to fund NPC when established, but there are Billions of dollars to invest in equipping Security Agencies to fight crime and insecurity which runs counter to the ideals of democratic principles and genuine nation building. We are, however, consoled that the two reasons stated by Mr President in his letter to the National Assembly are not strange to us as they are in objection to the Bill, same reasons stated by the Nigeria Police, State Security Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and the Ministry of Interior during the Public Hearings organized by the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is preposterous that a Bill passed by majority members of the National Assembly; supported by 574 memoranda and oral submissions made during the Public Hearings by various institutions such as Government Ministries and Agencies, Religious Bodies, National Youth Council of Nigeria, National Association of Nigerian Students, State Agencies and House of Assemblies, Educational Institutions, Civil Society Organizations and other None Governmental Organizations is being discarded because of the mundane interest of less than Six Government Agencies.

Notwithstanding Mr President withholding assent on the Bill, as a disciplined, uniformed and patriotic youth organization, we remain absolutely loyal and maintain tremendous respect for him, while hoping that the needful will be done sooner than later.

At this juncture, while all hope is not lost for the NPC Establishment Act to be promulgated, let me make it abundantly clear that the none-assent to the Bill by Mr President does not invalidate the existing PCN and its activities nationwide as the Corps remains a legal entity under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990.

I have stated repeatedly in the past that the essence of the Bill is to give statutory backing to our organization and to attract budgetary allocation, including salaries, pensions and gratuities etc. therefore, no one should assume that our activities are illegal.

On this note, I register my absolute regret and apology to the vast majority of Nigerian youth, particularly the loyal Officers and Men of PCN over this temporary setback. While delay is not denial, we should all bear in mind that patience and endurance are said to be golden but difficult to overcome. I have been in this struggle since 1990. All the while, I endured distractions and humiliations because of my fervent belief that in building an enduring institution, which we are collectively aiming at, there is bound to be man-made obstacle but at the end of it all, victory is certain and belongs to God. I therefore urge all bonafide Officers and Men to be unrelenting in their support; be calm and law abiding. Very very soon, I assure, we shall all have cause to celebrate.

Amb. (Dr) Dickson A.O. Akoh, FCITr, FCPA, FNSIS

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