Peace Corps of Nigeria: Voluntary or governmental organisation?

Peace Corps of Nigeria: Voluntary or governmental organisation?

Monday, February 20, 2017 12:45 pm

Peace Corps members on parade

A News Analysis by Abdullahi Yusuf and Kayode Olaitan, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Discussions on the activities of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) have been getting the attention of the public in recent times, especially as the organisation is somewhat promising employments if the bill to establish it sails through to approval of the presidency.

But critics have been asking whether the organisation has been managing its affairs within the precinct of its constitution, particularly in the area of recruitment linked to anticipated approval of the organisation as a government agency.

However, relevant provisions of the constitution of PCN indicate that membership of the organisation shall be opened to all students of educational institutions and membership is on voluntary basis and restricted to students in schools only.

PCN also has provision for employed professionals in various fields that are desirous in serving as Peace Corps Volunteers.

This does not include remuneration but they are entitled to identity card, uniform, kits, T-shirts, caps and when they are used as resource persons during programmes and events, they are paid honorarium.

“Enlistment into Peace Corps Volunteer Cadre is also by obtaining a form from the national headquarters or any of the state commands, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),’’ the organisation’s constitution says.

Amb. Dickson Akoh, the National Commandant, PCN, nonetheless, said the organisation “is affiliated to the Federal Ministry of Youth Development since 2004.

“It also enjoys membership of all Youth Organisations in Nigeria which is the National Youth Council of Nigeria, while the United Nations Economic and Social Council gave us Special Consultative Status since 2012.

“The African Union brought a letter granting this organisation special consultative status. No youth organisation is enjoying this status.

“Nigeria provides one of the most psychological environments where the youth can grow and attain their full potential both physical and psychological.

“However, there are no enough veritable platforms for the youth to be trained, reoriented and achieve their goals and yearning in life, that was the motivating factor that made me form PCN.’’

Irrespective of this explanation, cynics express concern about the mode of the organisation’s recruitment that involves the payment of N40, 000 as registration fee per member.

But Akor said the amount collected from “most unemployed youth who seek placement in the organisation covers the running cost and provision of materials.’’

He also said in an interview that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) had investigated the movement as far back as 2004 and cleared it of any wrongdoing.

“The ICPC has investigated us in 2004 and established that the money is going toward training materials and we’re not extorting money from the youth,’’ Mr Akor said.

He added that the Peace Corps also paid instructors to train its members at its training facilities across the country.

“We also pay our existing staff and not a single one of them is earning less than N40, 000 per month, even though we’re not getting any support from the government right now,’’ he said.

After a review of the organisation’s activities for the past 18 years, the Senate and the House of Representatives recently harmonised the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill to give the organisation government backing.

The bill is expected to be forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent and Akor said: “immediately the president assents to this bill, nobody will pay a dime for registration or for training’’.

However, a lawmaker, Sen. Dino Melaye, opined that the PCN would be relevant in security of Nigerians and useful to the revolution of Nigerian youths.

He enjoined the youth to always promote the change mantra of the present administration for a better future.

Similarly, Human Right Activist Femi Falana, called for the endorsement of the Peace Corps Bill in order to be an act of parliament.

He said the PCN would be a pillar of social change and growth, advising the organisation to educate and re-orientate youths when passed into law.

“This organisation should go out and mobilise our youths as many of them were suffering from ignorance.

“The youth are been used to stage demonstrations in support of corruption, am challenging this organisation to change some of the wrong mind set of youths,’’ Falana said.

Also, Minister of Youth and Sports Solomon Dalung said the PCN was a significant milestone in the history of youth development in Nigeria.

He said the empowerment of the youth would reduce some of the challenges of young persons in the country.

He urged the youth to change their mind set and disengage from indiscipline and negative values.

Sharing similar sentiments, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) spokesperson, Mr Emmanuel Okeh said that although the PCN had not been recognised as a government agency, the NSCDC would be ready to collaborate with.

He dismissed insinuations that the PCN was a reduplication of the activities of the NSCDC, insisting that the role of each organisation would be clearly spelt out by the law.

He noted that with the security situation in the country, no security agency could deal with the myriad of security threats confronting the country alone.

The PCN Bill was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Mohammed Ndume and was first read at plenary on March 10, 2016.

The bill seeks to facilitate peace volunteerism, community service, neighbourhood watch and nation building.

It will also facilitate the training of youths to advance the course of peace building and conflict transformation through peace education, mediation and conflict resolution, among warring groups or communities where there are crisis in Nigeria.

The passage of the bill followed a report presented by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior, Sen. Bayero Nafada after clause by clause consideration.

According to the report, the head of the corps will be referred to as commandant-general with six deputy commandants from the six geopolitical zones of the country and the headquarters will be domiciled in FCT.

The functions of the corps will include promoting social and economic development and empowering and preoccupying the Nigerian youths through job creation and provision of alternative employment.

Senate President Bukola Saraki opined that the passage of the bill would go a long way to institutionalise the PCN that had been functioning for a long time without the backing of the law.

He expressed the hope that with the passage of the bill, it would contribute to the achievement of peace and stability in the country.

However, the fact is that the Senate had passed the PCN Bill in Dec. 2016 to empower the youth and operate as a security outfit under the Ministry of Interior if it gets the president’s assent.(NANFeatures)

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