By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the bill establishing the Peace Corp has set up another conflict between the legislative and executive arms of the Federal Government.
The new conflict frontier is coming in the face of lingering issues including the standoff on the order of elections, the 2018 budget of the Federal Government and the Senate’s refusal to screen majority of nominees made by the president.
The Senate’s action has been traced to the executive’s refusal to heed many motions and recommendations most notably, the president’s insistence on keeping Mr. Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, despite the Senate’s rejection of his appointment.
In the face of bottled-up issues, the matter of the establishment of the Peace Corp has turned into a redefinition of self-esteem by the two arms of the government.
The initiative of the Peace Corp was essentially that of a private citizen, Mr. Dickson Akoh. He has also been the single individual driving the project of turning his idea of a voluntary scheme into a public funded institution.
It had repeatedly been introduced into the legislative mill of the National Assembly since the time of the Fourth National Assembly but got no mileage until the time of the present Ninth National Assembly.
It was at all times introduced into the legislative process as a private member’s bill as the Nigerian Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill.
Remarkably, even before it passed through the legislative mill, the body had constituted its structures and recruited thousands of Nigerians out of the labour market. Those recruited reportedly paid at least N40,000 each supposedly for documentation and uniform. The organisation has also generated funds through donations on its web site.
Its eight broad objectives, notably, youth advocacy, community peace facilitation, youth mentoring among others, according to the top brass of the Police and other critics are duties already being performed by other agencies of the Federal Government.
The hostility of the top brass of the police and other security agencies to the idea of the body was not hidden. The police had on February 28, 2017, sealed off the headquarters of the body in Abuja describing it as an illegal body that was about to be used to undermine national security.
Despite motions by the House of Representatives and two orders by the courts, the police has remained unyielding, indeed moving on to recently declare its intention to seek the forfeiture of the building.
Undeniably, the seeming hostility of the police and other security agencies to the enactment of the Peace Corp was predicated on the shortage of funds and duplication of functions.
Besides the Police, other government agencies also flayed the proposal for the establishment of the corps at the public hearing at the National Assembly. Among the government bodies were the Office of the Head of Service, Ministry of Interior, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp, NSCDC.
The opposition of the government agencies to the proposal has been matched by a brazen campaign within and outside the legislature by members of the National Assembly.
The legislators, it is alleged, are desperate to use the agency to fulfil their promises of providing jobs for their constituents. Sources disclosed that several of the legislators have already been given recruitment forms perhaps as a payback for their vociferous support for the passage of the bill.
However, within the body and especially among those who paid for enlistment, there is the fear that they could, in turn, be weeded out in favour of those facilitated by the legislators.
President Buhari’s decision last month to veto the bill was based on what he claimed as the fact that other bodies were already doing the objectives of the body.
He also cited ”security concerns regarding the proposed outfit being authorised to undertake activities currently being performed by extant security and law enforcement agencies.”
In a situation where several government security agencies are faced with difficult financial challenges, it is not surprising that President Buhari also laced into the funding challenges facing the country to reject the establishment of the new security outfit.
While the administration’s veto of the bill has been welcomed by government bureaucrats the fear that the legislators may turn the issue into a political spat is a bother that is bound to unease everyone. This is especially given the fact that more challenging issues on governance and electoral discipline are pending.