Peace Corps Is Youth Development Body – Akoh
Amb.(Dr) Dickson Akoh is the national commandant, Peace Corps of Nigeria. In this interview with DAVID ADUGE-ANI, he speaks on the Bill establishing the Peace Corps of Nigeria and other issues surrounding his organization.
Can you give us a background of the Peace Corps of Nigeria?
It all started when i was in the Nigerian Army Cadet Corps in Government College, Garki. Before then, I was in Boys Scout Movement, where I rose to become a troop leader. I later enrolled in Red Cross Society, where I rose to zonal leader in charge of Otukpo zone.
That was when I was in secondary school. I was the pioneer commandant of Nigerian Army Cadet in 1989. The school even sent me a letter recently reminding and commending me on the corps. It was based on my experience that I went into research on youth unemployment situation in the country and the security implications. It was all these that aided the formation of Nigeria Leadership and Marshal Corp in 1990. It was registered in March 1992.
The fact remains that Nigeria provided one of the most psychological environment where the youth can grow and attain their full potentials, both physical and psychological, but lacks the presence of a veritable platform for the youth to be trained, reoriented and achieve their goals and yearning in life, that was the motivating factor that made me form Peace Corps of Nigeria.
My own led Peace Corps is affiliated to Federal Minister of Youth Development since 2004. It also enjoys membership all Youth Organization in Nigeria which is the National Youth Council of Nigeria. United Nations Economic and Social Council gave us Special Consultative Status since 2012.
Last year, shortly after our 18th anniversary, which was popularly celebrated and attended by political office holders, the African Union brought a letter granting this organization special consultative status. No youth organization is enjoying this status.
Tell us about the Peace Corps Bill?
On the issue of the bill, our bill was introduced to the House of Representatives by Rt. Hon. Abdullahi Umar Farouk. When National Peace and Unity Corp approached the House to protest, our bill had already passed second reading. It was first introduced in the 7th assembly, but the then the bill was frustrated.
In this 8th assembly, our bill was introduced last year. Reps said since our bill had passed second reading, they are not going to entertain anything similar. In the senate, our bill passed first reading six months after, but we didn’t know how our bill was removed when it was slated for second reading.
You can see clearly that the documents show that we went to National Assembly as Nigerian Peace Corps. The harmonization done by Senate Committee Chairman on Interior, Sen. Bayero Nafada cleared everything. You should also know that the Senate in their harmonized copy never lifted anything from Unity Corps Bill, not even a word.
The Senate approved ours which stated thus, “A bill for an act to establish the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC) to empower, develop and provide gainful employment for the youths, to facilitate peace, volunteerism, community service, neighbourhood watch, nation-building and for other related matters”. All these were lifted from our bill.
However, the Senate called for a meeting and pleaded with us that since we have six departments, that we should not find it difficult to allot three to national unity and Peace Corps. This is at the Senate level, but you know that Nigeria practices bicameral legislature, meaning that both chambers must approve bill before it will be passed.
How come the harmonization was between Nigerian Peace Corps and National Unity and Peace Corps?
For the sake of clarity, the bill we submitted to National Assembly was on Nigerian Peace Corps and not Peace Corps of Nigeria. They didn’t merge anybody to form Nigerian Peace Corps. We originally went to the National Assembly as Nigerian Peace Corps. Even during the harmonization, the House of Representatives said the only provision made for them by the Senate should be expunged.
We don’t need to meet them, there is no provision merging them with us. But if they come, we are ready to absorb them on the condition that they will undergo our trainings and be under 45 years as provided by the Act establishing the corps. The organization is meant for people between the ages of 18 and 45 years as prescribed by the law.
‘Some people seem to be eyeing the seat of National Commandant of the Peace Corps.What can you say to this?
Yes, when I arrived from United Nations conference on non-governmental regular session, I clarified that. I can show you the publication made by journalists quoting me. Those who are lobbying are lobbying blindly. I advice them, whether you are a General or Field Marshal, to lobby with their eyes wide open. The provision is also here in the bill establishing the corps. It says in (38)(e),
Notwithstanding the provision of this Act, but subject to such directions as may be issued by Peace corps, a person who immediately before the commencement of this Act was a volunteer or a regular member of or held office in the Dissolved Peace Corps shall be deemed to have been transferred to Peace Corps on terms and condition not less favourable than those obtaining immediately before commencement of this Act, and service in the Dissolved Peace Corps shall be deemed to be in service in Peace Corps for purpose of pension”. So, it takes care of everything.
What are the duties of Peace Corps of Nigeria outside what other security agencies are doing at the moment?
Let me get it clear, Peace of Nigeria is not just a new body that the National Assembly is trying to create. We have our offices in the 36 states including the FCT. At the moment, we are building an enduring institution. We have been in existence for a long time and doing what we are doing as Peace Corps for the past 18 years.
What the National Assembly has done is that, having studied our achievements is to give a statutory backing to the existing Peace Corps of Nigeria. So our functions are never the same thing with other security agencies. Peace Corps is a youth development body. It is different from the functions of other security agencies in the country. So our functions are never the same thing. So People, who are opposing the bill, for me, are putting the cart 500 kilometres ahead of the horse.
So what the National Assembly has decided to is not to create another body, but to create a statutory body to the existing Peace Corps of Nigeria. And they never said that the source of funding will come from the government alone.
Culled from Leadership Newspaper: http://www.leadership.ng/news/571094/peace-corps-is-youth-development-body-akoh