By Prince Yemi Itodo
Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Aliyu Ndume, has advised that the presence of Peace Corps officers around the lawmakers in the National Assembly would be more civil than the regular armed Police.
Ndume posited that the arrays of Police personnel attached to Very Important Persons (VIPs) and lawmakers in the National Assembly alone was enough to man the security of a state.
The lawmaker stated this on Wednesday, while briefing pressmen at the Senate Press Centre on the reason why he reintroduced the Bill for an Act to establish Nigerian Peace Corps.
The 8th National Assembly had passed the Bill and transmitted to President Muhammad Buhari before the expiration of the session.
But the President transmitted to both chambers on January 27, 2018, declining assent, citing paucity of funds and duplication of duties, as sole reasons.
The House of Representatives, through its chief whip, Hon. Mohammed Munguno, re-gazetted the Bill July 4, 2019, and it is at the final stage of passage.
Ndume, representing Borno South, also reintroduced the bill on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, 17th December, and it passed first reading.
Speaking on why he reintroduced the Bill, Ndume said, “last time we passed it in the 8th Senate, but Mr President declined assent to it. The reason preferred by Mr President is germane and it includes, the paucity of funds in the country, which we all agreed with.
“Secondly, he said there were some kind of duplications of roles they are supposed to play and those of the already existing security agencies. The President did not say the idea of having a Peace Corps is not good.
“That is why I said it was important we look at the two issues raised by the President, by looking at the Bill again, so that we can harmonize their responsibilities with those of the security agencies”.
Speaking further, the lawmaker said, “if you look at the National Assembly, we have police here now that are deployed to VIPs or politically exposed persons, up to the number that can take care of a state or some local government areas, you can conveniently attach Peace Corps members to provide the basic security that we need, so that you don’t need to have a Senator walking around here with someone with a gun because these are somebody that people voted for.
“You can also deploy Peace Corps to some areas to maintain peace. For example, instead of deploying police to monitor peaceful demonstration or peaceful protest, you can assign that responsibility to the Peace Corps and they will now go and maintain the peace that is required.
“Even in the traffic areas, you don’t need to deploy a Police with the gun. You can deploy Peace Corps members to take care of that and some other certain things. These are the things the Peace Corps can do and you can now relieve the Police and the Army that we are lacking in terms of numbers.
“And because they will receive basic security training when the need arises, you can convert them to the Nigeria Police, Army and other security agencies.
The only thing they will be lacking in terms of training is the use of arms”.
On the issue of funding, Ndume said, “it is not only about funding the security agencies alone but even funding the national budget is a great challenge, because, as you can see, the budget that was signed yesterday shall be funded by external and internal borrowing.
“But the security is very important and we know that we are deficient in that sector and the essence of government is the security and welfare of the people and I think the Peace Corps can play a significant role in that regard. That is the reason why I reintroduced the bill”.
The bill, when passed and assented to, will give legal backing to the Peace Corps of Nigeria, which has been existing for almost two decades, as a non-governmental organization with consultative status with the United Nations and the African Union.