Attempt to override President Muhammad Buharis veto on Peace Corps Bill,
President Buhari, had on February 27, 2018, declined assent on a Bill for an Act to establish Nigerian Peace Corps, citing paucity of funds and duplication of duties of existing security agencies as main reasons.
But the lawmakers felt the bill was popular and going by the trend of unemployment and insecurity in the country, a Peace Corps organisation enacted as government agency would help curb some of the challenges.
Delta lawmaker, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, while addressing newsmen in Abuja, had said "President Buhari made a costly mistake by declining assent to the bill."
Ossai had vowed to "personally undertake collation of signatures" for overriding the President's veto.
Consequently, the lawmakers, again, began the process to give legal backing to the existing Peace Corps of Nigeria, when Kogi lawmaker, Hon. Sunday Karimi sponsored the bill and it passed first reading on March 21, 2018.
The politics and intrigues...
The interest of the lawmakers, however, started waxing cold, when, members at the front burners were allegedly being "pressurized by the Presidency" to back down on the move.
It was gathered that some members of the Parliament, especially, those from the northern part of the country; those who didn't want to risk a return ticket on the platform of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) under the leadership of the President, and those who for fear of investigation over alleged corruption,began to bow to pressure.
Hon. Karimi, who sponsored the overriding process through first reading, backed out from the move, leaving the bill to become orphan and kept in limbo, at the mercy of Committee on Rules and Business for two months.
At the risk of final extinction and in a move to allow the bill complete its legislative circuit, the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, on Thursday prepared the bill for a second reading.
The bill, which was slated for number one business on the Order Paper of Thursday, May 24, 2018, was captioned, 'A Bill for an Act to establish Nigerian Peace Corps, to develop, empower and provide gainful employment for the youth, facilitate peace, volunteerism, community services, neighbourhood watch and nation-building; and for related matters (HB. 89)'.
Orker-Jev had just started reading the lead debate on the bill, when the chamber, which was half-empty, started witnessing the influx of members, while lobbying became intensified on the floor of the House.
While leading the debate, Orker-Jev said, "Apart from the jobs that would be crested through the establishment of Peace Corps, it will compliment the activities of other security agencies like police and civil Defence to maintain law and order in the country".
Taraba lawmaker, Hon. Rimande Shawulu, speaking in favour of the bill, said there was need for the establishment of the corps to assist other security agencies.
"There is need for us to bridge the gap in internal security. Actually there's a very wide gap in policing of this country," Shawulu, who is Chairman, House Committee on Army, said.
"There are too many ungoverned in Nigeria and there are too many black spots in Nigeria. Nigeria also lacks adequate manpower that could assist the security agencies in intelligence gathering", he added.
Lagos lawmaker, Hon. Rita Orji, was of the opinion that the fund recovered from the Abacha lootsshould be channelled to funding the Peace Corps.
Speaker after Speaker, the lawmakers took turn to debate, in favour or against overriding the President's veto.
The summary of the line of debate of pro-Buhari lawmakers was that, the reasons given by the President was cogent enough to lay the Bill to rest.
They argued that, having served in the Nigerian Army as a General and serving currently as the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Buhari has first hand information about the security of the country more than anyone else.
Those who were in support of the bill argued that, being a Commander-In-Chief does not place in the shoulders of Mr. President, the exclusive knowledge of security in the country, adding that the Corps could also help in reducing crimes and insecurity if established.
Hon. Ossai, who had earlier boasted to undertake collation of signatures to override Buhari's veto but eventually perceived to have bowed to pressure, said; "The rejection by Mr President gives us the opportunity to redeem ourselves for passing the Bill in the first place."
The Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa (Kano), admitted that the Corps would provide job opportunities to teeming Nigerian graduates but since the President had vetoed the bill, he was in the better position to know what was good for the country.
Buhari's reelection campaign
The House, was however, thrown into rowdy session, when, a pro-Buhari lawmaker from Sokoto state, Hon. Musa Seriki Adams used the platform to campaign for Buhari's re-election.
"The solution Nigeria's security challenges and what will bring lasting peace is not by supporting Peace Corps Bill but by supporting President Buhari to come for a second term"; the move which was resisted through points of order from Hon. Jonathan Gaza (Nasarawa) and Hon. Nkem Abonta (Abia).
Other lawmakers who kicked against the bill were, Hon. Idris Wase (Plateau), Hon. Baballe Bashir (Kano), Hon. Johnson Oguma (Edo), Hon. Adamu Shika (Niger), Hon. Johnson Agbonayima (Edo) and Hon. Benson Babajide (Lagos).
Dogara was helpless
The last minute effort of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to salvage the situation could not yield result, as pro-Buhari lawmakers seemed to have been adequately mobilised for a serious showdown.
As if that was all they came to the plenary to do, as soon as the question was pulled by the Speaker and a resounding 'Nay' voice votes rented the air, the pro-Buhari lawmakers were seen jumping up, hugging each other and celebrating that the bill fainted, thereafter, all of them left the chambers, leaving a few others to continue with the rest business of the day.
With the setback suffered on Thursday, May 24, 2018, the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill is therefore left at the mercy of the executive arm of government, which solely reserves the right to recall the Bill and take a second look at issues formulated therefrom.
On the other hand, the Bill, which had already gone through various legislative processes at the National Assembly, would not have much stress in scaling through the hurdles when such opportunity resurfaces in the 9th Assembly, after 2019 general elections.
The Peace Corps of Nigeria which was registered under 'Part C' of the Company and Allied Matters Act of 1992 at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), would continue to exist as a Non-Governmental Organisation, with special consultative status with the United Nations and African Union.
No official statement has been released from the leadership of the Corps in reaction to the latest development, at press time.
But the national commandant of the Corps, Dickson Akoh, had earlier described President Buhari's rejection of the bill as a conspiracy against Nigerian youths.