The refusal of the President to sign the bill establishing the Peace Corps bill into law is appropriate. We have the police, the military, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Department of State Services and several other para-military agencies already in existence. Can we sincerely say these agencies are adequately catered for? Why should a father who lacks the capacity to adequately take care of children continue to procreate? That is what I can liken this situation to.
Good, there will be jobs for many of these youths if the bill was signed into law, but should we just increase the number of security agencies without making adequate provision to properly train and kit them? If we fail to provide for them they will become a nuisance to society and create more problems than they are meant to solve.
Today, our policemen and women are not properly looked after and that is largely responsible for their below par performance. If we take good care of our police, we don’t need to always resort to the use of our military for internal security like we are doing now. We have military personnel performing functions that ordinarily should be performed by the police.
It would have been good to sign the bill into law if there were resources and the political will to take adequate care of officers and men of the new outfit, after all, the police do not have enough personnel to be everywhere in the country but Mr. President’s decision is better in the overall interest of the nation. If someone has the financial capacity and sufficient time to care for two children such a person should not give birth to 10, if he does, the children will suffer neglect and none of them may fulfil his potential.
• Mr. Ayodele Shittu (Former Deputy Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly)
Yes. I commend President Muhammadu Buhari for finding courage to withhold assent to the controversial Nigerian Peace Corps Establishment Bill (2017). The President gave two major reasons for withholding his assent; First, the security concern the approval will generate as existing security and law enforcement agencies are already undertaking these tasks, secondly; the financial implication of funding the corps.
While the National Assembly went populist by succumbing to the clamour to pass the controversial bill, the President shunned populism and cheap popularity to act in the national interest. By this singular act, the President has saved the Nigeria Police Force from being further weakened. The degradation of the police started with the formation of the military and the establishment of the special branch which metamorphosed into the Nigerian Security Organisation, and later the State Security Service currently referred to as the Department of State Services. The creation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission, which are offshoots of the Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force, and the establishment of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps and even the Federal Road Safety Commission are all performing functions which are within the purview of police functions as bequeathed to us by our colonial masters. This has resulted in the pauperisation and pulverisation of the police, hence the intractable security challenges the nation is facing today.
If we had concentrated our efforts, resources, attention and focus on building the Nigeria Police, as bequeathed to us by our colonial masters, our situation could have been different from what it is presently.
This is not the time for duplicating crucial institutions like the Nigeria Police Force. Let us strengthen the police by establishing state police in the component states of the federation. I urge Mr. President to find the courage he exhibited in refusing to sign the bill, to find the same in ensuring the creation of state police. This will guarantee the penetration of security and law enforcement in the nooks and crannies of this country.
• Lekan Oketokun (Peace and Conflict Resolution expert)
The Peace Corps Bill is an Act of the National Assembly which requires the assent of the President to become law.
However, in this case, the assent was denied by the President on the grounds that its existence would duplicate the functions of similar agencies and more importantly, that the government lacks the funds to fund such a new agency given the present economic realities. It is therefore on this premise that l agree with the President’s decision to reject the bill. No doubt, proponents of the bill are disappointed, but as a security outfit, for me, the issue of funding is very important.
Nigerians have been complaining that the Nigeria Police Force and indeed, other security outfits being funded by the Federal Government are not adequately funded and l believe that establishing another one will just create more confusion as far as the issue of funding is concerned.
What is the sense in establishing a new outfit that you know you lack the capacity to fund? The Peace Corps Bill as passed by the National Assembly is not a revenue generating agency. So, you’ll need government funding to sustain it. The government currently owes a lot of its department and agencies salaries and allowances and pensioners are daily agonising over unpaid emoluments.
If the President had assented to the bill, the Peace Corps would exist not only in the Federal Capital Territory but in all the 36 states of the federation, this will translate into the payment of billions of naira as salaries and allowances which will be an additional burden. So, I commend the forthrightness of the President in coming out to say , yes the bill may be okay, but the government for now, does not have the capacity to fund it. That, for me, is the hallmark of leadership.
• Abubakar Tsav (Retired Commissioner of Police)
I think Mr. President’s decision is appropriate. You see, the Peace Corps is trying to replicate the job of the police. We already have the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps doing this. We don’t need another body. What we need is for the government to equip and strengthen our police force, train officers and men and provide the necessary incentives through proper remuneration; and you will get better results.
What is happening in Nigeria today is that you have unhealthy rivalry among our security agencies as everyone of them is trying to tell the government that it is better than the other. It’s just like two women married to one man; each woman is trying to outdo the other to get the attention of the husband, that is the situation.
When I joined the police in those days, the E-branch, which later became the Department of State Services, had the responsibility of gathering intelligence which they passed on to the police to act upon. But now, the situation is so bad that this agency gets such information and keeps it to itself until things degenerate. I support the President’s decision 100 per cent.
Tope Olaoye (An Ekiti based Administrative Officer)
I will say yes. This is because the President was sincere enough to state reasons for withholding his assent to the bill. The first reason the President gave was that there was no money to fund the Peace Corps. In this era of economic downturn I think a good government should get its priorities right. If the administration had put in place its priority programmes and it does not include the Peace Corps, nobody should blame the administration.
The President also said the role of the Peace Corps will be a duplication of the role of the police. Well, this is debatable. But I’m not surprised because the Peace Corps has been having a running battle with the police. Besides, the activities of the Peace Corps have also come under public scrutiny where it was alleged that some people used the name of the corps to collect money from youths seeking to enlist. For an organisation waiting for presidential approval, any controversy surrounding its activities is likely to impact negatively on its image.
• Emmanuel Ado (Kaduna-based Public Affairs analyst)
The President’s decision to withhold assent was informed more by the politics than anything else. Ours is a country that is still grappling with security challenges all over the place; if it’s not herdsmen attacking farmers, it is terrorists abducting schoolgirls in Dapchi. If it’s not bandits waylaying travelers, it is kidnappers picking people at will and demanding ransom.
The military and the police are overstretched, they need help. I think the National Assembly may override Mr. President because the legislature has 30 days within which to do this. And I think they will, because the issues involved are more complex than both parties are willing to make public. So many of the legislators had secured slots within the Peace Corps as a means of empowering jobless youths in their constituencies, if truth be told, I think it will not be too much to have another body to assist the police and perhaps, our military, to deal with some of these security issues.