By Amb Dickson A. O. Akoh
For quite some time, there has been series of publications by Mr. Chinedu Nneji, the self-acclaimed Commandant-General of the National Unity and Peace Corps (NUPEC) and his supposed Plateau and Osun States Commandants, accusing me of distorting some facts with regards to the passage of the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC) Bill by the National Assembly (NASS).
The Senate passed and adopted the bill because it believes in Peace Corps’ collective bargaining and integrated negotiation in resolving conflicts of any dimension.
Regardless of the quantum of misrepresentations and misinformation placed before the officers and men of NUPEC, who may have been misled by Nneji, I wish to reiterate with facts and figures, that NUPEC is NEVER part of the Bill passed by the NASS.
It is either Mr. Nneji is ignorant of the workings of the legislative process or is simply being economical with the truth just to save his face now that he has lost virtually everything he put in this gamble to reap where he did not sow.
It is important to stress that the adoption of the Bill is simply an approval of the Harmonized report of the Conference Committee of December 2016 of which Paragraph 11 (Viii) page 4 and part 12, 38(a) (ii) of page 5 of the 6-page report that removed anything that has to do with NUPEC.
The spokesmen of the Senate and House of Representatives have clarified this issue, that NUPEC is not part of the NPC Bill that was adopted. Therefore, no Senator or member can contradict their positions because they speak for both chambers of the NASS. Juxtaposing the introductory notes and functions of both PCN and NUPEC Bills before the Senate, there is no where NUPEC was captured in the Bill.
Contrary to the insinuations that the Bill provided for the office of the Commandant-General as the designation of the Head of the NPC and a provision for Ministry of Interior, Section 11 Part 111(1) provided that: ‘‘There shall be for the Peace Corps a National Commandant who shall be appointed by the President and Commander-in-Chief on the recommendations of the Minister’’. It is also contained in the Senate Bill at page 3 of 11. In addition, Section 4 of part 9 titled ‘‘Miscellaneous’’ at page 10 of 11 of the Senate Bill provides: ‘‘The Minister means the minister charged with responsibility for matters relating to Youths.’’
Furthermore, Section 38 under part 8 of the Bill titled ‘‘Dissolution of the Peace Corps of Nigeria and Savings’’ provided in subsection A thus: “The body known as the Peace Corps of Nigeria (in this section referred to as the “Peace Corps’’ ) existing before the commencement of this Act is dissolved.
In view of the foregoing, I want to submit with all sense of responsibility and honesty that the only leverage or window provided in subsection 39 (g) of page 10 of the Senate Bill as Harmonized is: ‘‘that individual(s), group, association, body that have shown or demonstrated interest to be absorbed as members of the Peace Corps other than the Regular and Volunteer Members of the hitherto Dissolved Peace Corps of Nigeria shall be subject to the Mandatory Statutory four weeks initial training and orientation programme upon the commencement of this Act.’’
It is in view of this section that Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio asked me a question during the Investigative Hearing by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters whether the PCN will be willing to absorb members of the NUPEC and my answer was in the affirmative.
At that point, I made it clear that our doors are open to all youths that fall within the required age bracket of 18 to 35 years. The Founder of NUPEC, Prof. Humphrey Ogoegbunam, Mr. Nneji and other senior officers of NUPEC and members of the public, including the media were all present during the Hearing. The tape of this Investigative Hearing is there for anyone interested in verifying the truth of what actually transpired at the event.
I painstakingly made the aforementioned clarification to buttress my position that we are not against any youth joining the Corps as long as it is not premised on innuendoes, propaganda or lies.
We are in an era of enlightenment and global technology and I believe that the senior officers of NUPEC are learned and intelligent enough to know that with all that I have taken my time to explain, their boss, Nneji has all along been taking them for a wild goose chase to nowhere.
Therefore, I expect them to either visit the office of Senate Committee on Rules and Business or that of the Clerk of the NASS where the Bill is domiciled preparatory to be transmitted to Mr. President for his assent, for a confirmation of what I have been laboring through this pertinent article to explain.
In line with one of the Sections quoted above, we are ever willing and ready to accommodate bona fide members of NUPEC that come through their founder and authentic Commandant-General, Prof. Humphrey Ogoegbunam after the necessary screening exercise and in line with the relevant provisions as contained in the NPC Bill.
It is also important that I use the window of opportunity offered by this medium to clarify other disturbing misconceptions. To this end, I wish to puncture the balloon of lies flown by the supposed Osun Commandant of NUPEC that the nominal roll of Peace Corps of Nigeria was rejected by the Senate because it was over-bloated. For the avoidance of doubt, the Senate has nothing to do with staff nominal roll until the Bill has been assented to by Mr President. A cursory perusal of the harmonized Bill shows that there is nothing like staff nominal rolls therein.
Similarly, the numbers S.B 173 and S.B 183 on the Bills are mere reference numbers to ease the process of legislation. And to further underscore the fact that they are mere reference numbers, they were not featured in the harmonized bill.
I wish to place it on record that I once served as the Vice President of the Nigerian Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) and I currently serve as its Board of Trustees Member representing the North-Central. For purpose of information, the NYCN is the umbrella body of all youth organizations in Nigeria. And considering the level I have attained in that body, it will simply be out of place for me to engage in any action that will demean its noble objectives or what it represents in the larger Nigerian polity.
* Akoh is the National Commandant, Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN).