How move to override Buhari's veto on peace corps bill was resisted

How move to override Buhari's veto on peace corps bill was resisted

- Details of how lawmakers of the House of Representatives laid the Peace Corps Bill to rest have emerged

- Most of the lawmakers who vowed to ensure they veto the president's power on the rejected bill backed out during plenary on Thursday, May 24

- Sources said lawmakers who could not risk loosing a return ticket began to back down following pressure from the presidency

On Thursday, May 24, members of the House of Representatives laid to rest the move to veto President Muhammadu Buhari's power on his rejection of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) bill.

The decision by the House followed a process of giving legal backing to the already existing para-military outfit when a lawmaker from Kogi state, Sunday Karimi sponsored the bill.

The bill passed its first reading on Monday, March 21 ,after a bill for an Act to establish the PCN had been rejected by the president on February 27. The president giving reasons for rejecting the bill said there was no money to fund the Corps and that establishing the organisation would amount to duplication of existing security agencies.

However, following the president's rejection of the bill, a Delta state member of the House, Nicholas Ossai, told journalist in Abuja that President Buhari made a costly mistake by his action. Ossai said he would undertake collation of signatures for the purpose overriding the president's veto.

But in a shift of posts, lawmakers developed cold feet in their bid the muscle the president to assent the bill.

Sources said some lawmakers who could not risk loosing a return ticket began to back down following pressure from the presidency. Some of the lawmakers mostly from the northern part of the country and under the All Progressives Congress began to bow to the pressure.

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The first of this back-down was seen after Karimi who had sponsored overriding the bill through its first reading reneged leaving the bill at the mercy of members of the committee on rules and business for two months.

The committee's chairman, Emmanuel Orker-Jev, however, succeeded on preparing the bill for a second reading on Thursday, May 24, as the bill was captured A bill for an Act to establish Nigerian Peace Corps, to develop, empower and provide gainful employment for the youth, facilitate peace, volunteerism, community services, neighbourhood watch and nation-building; and for related matters (HB. 89)' on the day's order paper.

While reading the lead debate for the bill, Orker-Jev said: "Apart from the jobs that would be crested through the establishment of Peace Corps, it will compliment the activities of other security agencies like police and civil Defence to maintain law and order in the country."

In his support, Rimande Shawulu, a lawmaker from Taraba state said the importance of the PCN cannot be overemphasised.

According to Shawalu, the establishment of PCN would lead to helping other security agencies carry out their jobs effectively. He said there is need to bridge the gap in internal security across the spheres of Nigeria.

"There are too many ungoverned in Nigeria and there are too many black spots in Nigeria. Nigeria also lacks adequate manpower that could assist the security agencies in intelligence gathering," Shawulu, the chairman of the committee on Army said.

Subsequently, Rita Orji from Lagos state suggested that money recovered from the late dictator, Sani Abacha's loot be used for the funding of the Peace Corps of Nigeria.

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Taking turns to speak during the debate on the bill, some of the members, usually referred to as pro-Buhari lawmakers said the president's reason was strong enough to lay the bill to rest. They said that having served in the Nigerian Army, the president has more information about Nigeria's security than anyone else.

Ossai, who had sponsored the PCN bill said: "The rejection by Mr President gives us the opportunity to redeem ourselves for passing the Bill in the first place."

Contrarily, those in support of the PCN bill said the president position and his experience does not give him an exclusive knowledge of the security situation in the country.

Throwing the House into a rowdy session, the chief whip, Alhassan Doguwa from Kano state, said he supports the notice that the establishment would reducing unemployment by creating jobs, the president is in the best position to know what is good for the country.

Another member of the House from Sokoto, Seriki Adams, said: "The solution Nigerias security challenges and what will bring lasting peace is not by supporting Peace Corps Bill but by supporting President Buhari to come for a second term."

Other lawmakers who kicked against the Bill are, Hon. Idris Wase (Plateau), Hon. Baballe Bashir (Kano), Hon. Johnson Oguma (Edo), Hon. Adamu Shika (Niger), Hon. Johnson Agbonayima (Edo) and Hon. Benson Babajide (Lagos).

In a bid to save the situation, resounding NAYs filled the Chamber as the speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, asked for those in favour or against the bill leaving the PCN bill at the mercy of the presidency.

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It is expected that the presidency either recalls the bill or totally forget its existence.

On the other hand, the Bill, which had already gone through various legislative processes at the National Assembly, would not have much stress in scaling through the hurdles when such opportunity resurfaces in the 9th Assembly, after 2019 general elections.

Whichever way it goes, the Peace Corps of Nigeria which was registered under part C of the Company and Allied Matters Act of 1992 at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), would continue to exist as a Non-Governmental Organisation, with special consultative status with the United Nations and African Union.

No official statement has been released from the leadership of the Corps in reaction to the latest development, at press time. earlier reported that House of Representatives had dashed any hope of reviving the Peace Corps bill as the bill failed to pass the second reading on Thursday, May 24.

President Buhari had refused to sign it into law after it was passed by the National Assembly. Explaining his reasons for withholding assent, Buhari wrote a letter to the House of Representatives on the issue.

In response, some lawmakers had planned to veto the president’s rejection of the bill which was sponsored by Emmanuel Orker-Jev (APC, Benue).

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