That many youth across the country are gnashing their teeth since Thursday afternoon when they learnt of the failure of the House of Representatives to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent on the much talked about Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill is to state the obvious.
Most of these expectant youths who had all along looked forward to the House of Representatives must be thoroughly disappointed and embarrassed by the action of the Lower Chamber, which could not live up to her promises when it mattered most.
When President Buhari withheld assent to the Peace Corps bill in February this year, the House raised the hopes of the teeming unemployed youths in the country by declaring audaciously that it would veto the presidential rejection. Indeed the House made a huge show out of the issue and consequently listed 21 other bills that it had set out to make them laws.
Many Nigerians were also taken in by the antics of the lawmakers; and considering the fact that the Commandant of the Peace Corps, Mr. Dickson Akoh had disclosed that if given constitutional power, the Corps could recruit as much as 300,000 youths, the House became the cynosure of all eyes.
The peoples trust in the House was also enhanced by the fact that the entire Nigerian Police Force is said to be less than 400,000 personnel. So, if a similar organisation could be established and would recruit as much as 300,000 personnel, it will reduce the number of unemployed youths walking the streets and idling away. Again, the Peace Corps, many believe would also assist in the current security challenges we are facing as a nation. Presently, the peace corps has over 100,000 employees comprising of regular and volunteer officers with offices spread across the 36 states and 774 local governments of the federation.
The Chairman, House committee on rules and business, Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, decided to dust the bill and prepared it for a second reading. The lawmaker said that the organization has existed for almost twenty years and was doing well as a private organization, without threatening the security. He added that the issue of funding was not personal to the President, stressing that the Corps was largely a voluntary organization and had done well in that capacity.
But the same House, which had earlier passed the bill rose vehemently against it. It was unprecedented. Ardent promoters of the bill surprisingly made a u-turn and spoke negatively against it. Most shocking was chairman of the House committee on ethics and privileges, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta). After the bill was rejected by the President, Ossai had even announced publicly that he would collate signatures of his colleagues to veto it. But many watched in awe as the lawmaker decimated the Peace Corps bill.
Speaker YakubuDogara had made desperate efforts to save the bill but it was unfruitful. Before putting the bill for voting, Dogara drew the attention of his colleagues to the fact that they had deviated from the actual issues canvassed by the President but instead were focusing on matters not connected to the bill. The speaker explained even if the bill was passed through second reading, it would not amount to an override of the presidential assent. According to the speaker, the House would still need two third majority to override the President’s veto. But the lawmakers were undeterred and were bent on doing away with the bill.
To show how that the lawmakers had turned against the bill just between February and May, they were not prepared to listen to the speaker’s explanations. They urged the presiding officer to quickly put the question. From the tone of their argument, it was clear that the bill had met its waterloo because the opposition against it was massive.
The Commandant of the Peace Corps must review his relationship with other security agencies if he wants to still push this bill. The no love lost between him and these security agencies is the bill’s major albatross.
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