By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Hope dimmed yesterday in the Senate over the possibility of the lawmakers to veto President Mohammadu Buhari who has refused to sign the Bill establishing the Nigeria Peace Corps.
This became evident during the plenary when the Kogi West senator, Dino Melaye, who moved a motion saying that the Senate, had received a communication from the President on his rejection of assent to the Peace Corps Bill.
Melaye said since the President communicated to the Senate that he will not sign the Bill because of lack of funds to sponsor the agency, in addition to the fact that the agency will be a duplication of the duties of the existing agencies like the Civil Defense, police, among others, the Senate should meet with him to impress on him to sign the Bill.
He pointed out that since President withdrew his assent to the Bill, thousands of his constituents had called him to express displeasure, adding that they had requested that the Senate should expeditiously treat the Bill and give it a preferential treatment.
To this end, he appealed to the sentiment of the senators on the need to invoke the powers conferred on them by their constituents whom they represent, to veto President Mohammadu Buhari if he failed to reason with the Senate, reverse his decision and sign the Bill.
He said the Bill is the only legacy the government can bequeath the youths, adding that the government of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in its sixteen years in power, borrowed six trillion naira only, but the All Progressives Congress (APC), in its less three years in office, had borrowed eleven trillion naira, yet none of the money borrowed is going into empowering the youths.
However, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary, obviously ignored the matter, but just called on the Leader of the Senate to introduce the next item on the agenda of the Senate order paper for consideration.
Recall that President Buhari had withdrawn his assent to the National Peace Corps Bill which was passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to him late last year, citing lack of funds to fund the agency, which he also said, is a duplication of the responsibility of the functions of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
Also, the Peace Corps Office in Abuja had been in lock and key by the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) who had described the agency as an illegal body, provided the President had not assented to the Bill.
Reacting to this, the Peace Corps Commandant General, Dickson Akor, had sued the NPF for locking up their national secretariat, following which the a federal High Court in Abuja, passed a judgment directing the Police to vacate the Peace Corps Headquarters.
However, the police refused to unseal the office for about four months, until President Buhari last week indicated that he will not assent to the Bill, giving reasons of duplication of functions and lack of funds to finance the agency.
During the final passage of the Bill, the Chairman, Committee on Interior, Senator Bayero Nafada (APC, Gombe) who sponsored the Bill, said “The organization will be of great benefit to the Nigerian youths (because) in response to increasing complexity of the factors responsible for insecurity and the method by which peace and security is being undermined in Nigeria, there is need to develop comprehensive, multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholders and inclusive approaches in order to stem these threats.”
The committee also recommended that the Nigerian Peace Corps and the National Unity and Peace Corps should be merged since both formations appear the same.
The Senate had at its sitting on Thursday, March 10, 2016 debated on the general principles of the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill, 2016 (SB.173) sponsored by Senator Ali Ndume and the National Unity and Peace Corps Bill, 2016 (SB.183) sponsored by Senator Binta Garba Masi and referred it to the committee for further legislative action.
The Commandant General of the Nigerian Peace Corps, had claimed that the agency among others, seeks to empower, develop and provide gainful employment for the youths, to facilitate Peace, Volunteerism, Community Services, Neighborhood Watch and Nation-building.