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The 28th Of February 2019 would go down as one of the bleakest days for promoters of the Peace Corps in Nigeria. On that day, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, announced to the world that the President had declined to sign the Nigeria Peace Corps bill into law.
Nigeria News reported that among other reasons given for that decision was the paucity of funds and public safety.
This was the final blow to all the efforts by people to make sure that bill was assented to by the President. However, the signs were all there that the President would reject the bill.
For instance, last year, the Nigeria Police and State Security Service (SSS) had jointly raided the offices of the organization. Dickson Akoh and over 40 officers were arrested and detained.
This happened while the National Assembly was in the process of creating a law to make the organization an agency under the Sports Ministry.
Many believed the raid and arrest of Akoh were belated. The Police and SSS had to act because they didn’t want another outfit to compete with them in terms security services.
But this wasn’t the first time Akoh would be arrested by the police. The first time was 15 years ago in 2003 when the SSS, in conjunction with other security agencies raided and shut down the offices of the organization. Dr. Akoh was kept in detention for several months.
This time though, the Police took it a step further to show they are determined to permanently put a stop to Dickson Akoh’s activities. They instituted a fraud case against him in a court of law.
Among other things, they are accusing him of deceiving the public with bogus claims and fraudulently collecting money from unsuspecting unemployed Nigerians in the guise of getting jobs for them. They want the court to compel Mr Akoh to pay N1.4 billion for his alleged crimes.
To be clear, the latest raid on the headquarters on the 28th of February was a clear violation of the fundamental rights of Akoh and his people. And rightly too, Akoh went to court to have his rights enforced.
A Federal High Court has already passed judgment on the case. The Police and their accomplices were ordered to re-open the offices of the Peace Corps and pay about N12.5 million in damages. The police is appealing that judgment.
Another Paramilitary outfit for the country
Peace Corps officials claim the organization would not compete with the police but only complement their work in providing security in the country among other things.
On the Peace Corps website, the functions of the organization include to promote peace in Nigeria; to give jobs in various capacities to hundreds of thousands of Nigerians; to help in the fight against insurgency in various parts of the country; to fight cultism around the country; and to tackle the menace of exams malpractice.
These are all functions that fall under the jurisdiction of the police. If the police are failing, isn’t it logical that perhaps, the employment of more police personnel and improved training methods would be the thing to do?
That is how the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDS) started. Now you see them parading as guns for hire to whoever can afford their services after the government granted them permission to bear arms. They are now a law unto themselves going about harassing citizens indiscriminately.
Overriding the President
Common sense is again lacking here as the National Assembly is thinking of overriding the President and passing the Peace Corps bill into the law. The government has told them it doesn’t have money to fund another agency. You wonder why they are determined to foster that wage burden on Nigeria.
Is there something we are missing?
About two weeks ago, Dickson Akoh told a meeting of his organization that he is sure the National Assembly would veto the President. He urged them to keep the faith because, after a long struggle, they are about to finally prevail.
It is hard to understand why Akoh is promoting a crisis between the National Assembly and the Presidency.
He started his organization as an NGO. There are hundreds of NGOs doing good work across the country and not seeking to be part of the government. Why does he think the Peace Corps ought to be treated differently?
The answer can be found in the huge funds expected to come to him once that happens. He is going to be a man of considerable influence once that bill gets signed into law. But his desperate tactics has exposed him as a man determined to feather his nest with government money.
If he is a serious NGO like he claims, let him continue along that path.
Other serious NGOs are doing quite well by sourcing for funds elsewhere. If he has no clue, he can go for a crash course on how to write proposals to foreign organizations to help the Peace Corps carry out its activities effectively.
As a matter of fact, collecting 40k from people to be members is plain wrong. He must stop it.