N’Assembly passes controversial Peace Corps bill

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Despite a contrary legal advice, the Senate on Tuesday passed the bill seeking to establish the Nigerian Peace Corps in concurrence with the House of Representatives.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, in its report, which was considered at the plenary on Tuesday, strongly criticised the establishment of the corps.

But the lawmakers adopted the report of the Senate and the House of Representatives’ Conference Committee, which was presented by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior, Bayero Nafada.

The NPC bill was passed in the House of Representatives in June 2016, while it was passed in the Senate in November of the same year.

The two chambers set up a conference committee to reconcile the areas of differences in the bill.

But a debate on the bill at the Senate on May 2, 2017, was marred by controversy, forcing the chamber to refer the conference report to the legal committee.

In the report represented by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, David Umaru, at the plenary on Wednesday, the panel picked holes in the creation of the NPC but said there was the need to reciprocate House’s passage of the bill.

The report stated in part, “The powers, functions, e.t.c., of the Peace Corps call for concern and this committee would wish that they are subjected to further examination.

“The creation of jobs through this platform is laudable but this can be achieved by strengthening existing agencies and not necessarily creating a new one so as not to overburden the Federal Government; and that the Committee noted that the House of Representatives has adopted the Conference Report and the need for reciprocity.”

The report read in part, “After the presentation of the report (by Nafada-led committee), sundry issues were raised, which elicited debate for and against the consideration of the Conference Report.

“After extensive deliberations, the Senate in its wisdom deferred consideration of the Conference Report and mandated the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to look into the issues raised and report back.

“It is on record that the Senate is not considering the bill afresh but is addressing the uncertainties surrounding the Peace Corps that were raised at the plenary when the Conference Report was presented.

“The issues raised by distinguished senators at the plenary are fundamental and they go to the roots of the corps’ operations, which are subject of litigation.

“The operations of an organisation like the Peace Corps in other jurisdictions, particularly in the United States, the American Peace Corps which is used as a model does not operate as a permanent and pensionable employment as intended in Nigeria under this proposed legislation.

“Rather, its employment is for a limited period of five years only for regular employees and 24 months for volunteers.

“The operation of the Peace Corps is limited to social and economic development only in other jurisdictions as indicated in their mandate, pursuant to Section 591 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990, in the case of Nigerian Peace Corps.”

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, said, “The long journey has finally reached the Promised Land.”