Of hardships, disunity and assent to peace corps bill

The National Commandant, Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC), Dr Dickson Akoh has expressed optimism that President Buhari would sign the newly passed NPC Bill by the National Assembly.

Sir: In the midst of the current economic hardship, government should first shed itself of any political shenaniganism and rise up to making lives a bit comforting. It must with vehement alacrity ensure to stabilise the polity, galvanise the people’s confidence, engage and empower the youths for development, advance peace and resolve bloody conflicts in areas where they seem domiciled, particularly in southern Kaduna, Agatu in Benue, Jos, where herdsmen and farmers clash and where Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and Niger Delta agitations as well as others hold sway.

Fortunately, these come directly into the core mandate of the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC), whose bill is awaiting presidential assent since December 2016! It’s baffling why such a relevant and significant bill capable of facilitating peace and youth empowerment at this appropriate time is begging for the seal of authority, 90 days after the National Assembly had sent it to the president. Hence, President Buhari should kindly insist on no further delay in giving his assent for the good of his administration and society. While wishing the president well on his vacation cum medical checks abroad, the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is presently equal to the task.

As a peace promoting agency, the Peace Corps will carry out strategic mediation plans and youth engagement programmes to douse public tension and halt the gradual descent into anarchy in some volitle towns and villages. It has the relative advantage of handling and resolving conflicts by peaceful means. Perhaps, if the Peace Corps had been fully activated with the expected legal backing, the incessant killings, violent attacks and such gory inhuman acts due mainly to inherent political blindness and ethnic/religious bigotry may have been avoided.

The fight against corruption by government is commendable, but some more determined focus on fixing the economy and the simultaneous pursuit of peace and mutual understanding are critical to guaranteeing a sustainable development. The Eighth National Assembly has been tremendous and business-like in deliberating on and making germaine legislations. In its wisdom, both chambers did well to pass the Nigeria Peace Corps bill 2016, first by the House of Representatives on June 12, 2016 and complemented by the Senate on November 24, 2016. In his reaction, after the passage of the bill, the Senate President Bukola Saraki said: ‘‘The agency when officially established via presidential assent to the bill will be efficient in promoting peace and security particularly in view of of the rising crises situation in the country as well as create employment for Nigerian youths.” There is nothing more to add.

The Senate president must have spoken from hindsight. Prior to the passage of the bill, two separate outfits namely National Unity and Peace Corps (NUPEC) and Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) led by Dr. Chinedu Nneji and Dr. Dickson Akoh respectively were in the struggle for legal validation, having been operating as volunteer NGOs over two decades ago. Since they share the same primary objectives, the legislators from available information, felt it was expedient to coalesce the two in the bill to one body called the Nigeria Peace Corps (NPC). Dr. Nneji and Dr. Akoh have been indefatigable in the pursuit of peace, youth education and mobilisation. Once presidential assent to the bill is given, the nitty-gritty of integration and harmonisation of the two groups shouldn’t be a problem.

• Ken Mgbeokwere.

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