By Yemi Itodo
The Nigerian Senate, on Tuesday, threw its weight behind the establishment of the Nigerian Peace Corps, when it unanimously adopted the report of the Conference Committee on the harmonisation of the Bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Peace Corps.
This is coming on the heels of court litigations as a result of the arrest and detention of the National Commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria, Amb. (Dr.) Dickson Akoh and 49 others, jointly by the Nigerian Police Force and the Department of State Security (DSS).
In a motion ably moved by the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior, Senator Bayero Nafada, the Senate resolved that, the Federal Government of Nigeria should give statutory backing to the existing Peace Corps of Nigeria.
This was sequel to the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, urging the Senate to go ahead with the adoption of the Conference Committee report.
According to the Chairman of the committee, Senator David Umaru, the Senate would not obstruct the adoption of the Conference report, as it had already been passed, even though he said the issues raised by the Senate were fundamental.
He, however, said the committee had met with various stakeholders and consulted widely on the adoption of the Conference Committee report, before coming up with its recommendation.
It could be recalled that, the red chamber passed the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill on the 25th of November, 2016, shortly after the House of Representatives passed same.
A Conference Committee of both chambers was, however, inaugurated on the 8th of December, 2016, to harmonise the Bill passed at different levels.
The Reps, therefore, laid and adopted its report on the 19th of January, 2017, while the Senate only laid the report, but deferred its adoption.
After considering the issues raised by the Senate, it was resolved in May, 2017, that the David Umaru led committee should critically review the ongoing imbroglio of the Corps and other agencies and advise the Senate appropriately.
During the investigative hearing of committee, the founder of the National Unity and Peace Corps, Prof. Humphrey Oguagbulam, besieged the Senate, asking that his organisation be allowed to function under the Dickson Akoh led Peace Corps of Nigeria.
The Senate therefore, expunged the National Unity and Peace Corps from the newly harmonised version of the Bill.
Also in the harmonised version of the Bill, the head of the Peace Corps shall be referred to as the National Commandant, with 6 Deputy National Commandants representing the 6 geopolitical zones of the country.
The Corps, according to the Consolidated Bill, shall also be domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports development.
With the adoption of the Conference Committee report, the Bill is now set to be transmitted to the Presidency, for assent.
The core mandates of the Corps is to develop, empower and provide gainful employment to the youths, in order to facilitate Peace, Volunteerism, Community Services, Neighbourhood Watch, nation-building and other related matters.