Controversial Peace Corps Bill: Matters Arising

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Senate, Presidency Clash Over Peace Corps Bill

Controversial Peace Corps Bill: Matters Arising – Carl Umegboro

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President Muhammadu Buhari last week declined his assent on the bill establishing Peace Corps of Nigeria earlier passed by the National Assembly. In the reasons adduced by the Presidency for withholding assent as required by law, apart from the financial implications, the bill has overlapping responsibilities of existing security agencies. The conflict has generated hullabaloo in the society with the executive and legislature drawing a battle line. Funny enough, the episode developed at a time countless innocent citizens either by politically-motivated or communal crises have been massacred as animals by unknown gunmen. A cursory look at the evil and sophisticated weapons being used by the perpetrators of the heinous crimes leaves many to believe that the attacks may not be completely isolated from the security agencies, and therefore, a need on the Federal Government to be cautious in empowering and equipping any group of people with arms.

This piece was written by Carl Umegboro. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

Without a doubt, the legislative powers of the federation pursuant to Section 4(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended are vested in the National Assembly. And by the provision of Section 58(5), the National Assembly is clothed with unfettered powers to override the President on bills with two-thirds majority votes. But sensibly, could the latter be liberally invoked without first considering the whys and wherefores of the President’s knockback? To start with, the Navy, for example, is vested with the duty of providing security at the seashores; the Air Force on the airspace; the Army at the territorial borders whilst the police handle internal security in the society. This therefore connotes division of labour with clear-cut jurisdictions and responsibilities distinct from one another for security of lives and property pursuant to Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution. By this arrangement, all the security agencies identify clearly their respective primary operations zone which therefore eliminates unnecessary squabbles. Though in exceptional cases, there may be joint operations as directed by the President who doubles as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

At the moment, the police already are complemented by the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps alongside the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Department of State Services. The Federal Government stringently carved out financial crimes from the duties of the police for the EFCC as a specialised agency albeit both agencies operate with coordinate jurisdictions. On the other hand, the DSS complements the police in providing security to high-ranking government officials and other intelligence issues. This is sufficiently convincing that there are many agencies sharing responsibilities already with the police; sadly, the police remain under-funded and short-staffed. Arguably, proliferation of agencies is no remedy to security of lives and property but efficient coordination and funding which aligned with the President’s explanations.

Incidentally, the Peace Corps bill aimed at establishing the organisation to perform the same duties delineated for the police was rejected by the executive arm, which will be held liable if their services are compromised. The questions begging for answers to the promoters of the bill are; first, are the ins and outs adduced by the President weighty enough for the bill to be rejected?  Second, what responsibilities would the proposed agency be assigned with since grassroots and internal security is the duty of the police, and third, will the legislature coordinate their operations if established and fund the agency from its mind-blowing budgets? Above all, is it proficient to establish a security agency without necessary planning and funding knowing that a security agency that is redundant will likely take advantage of uniforms and arms at its disposal to do more harm than good to the society? Arising from these, duplication of security agencies without clearly spelt-out duties is unconsciously calling for a catastrophe. At most, the interested applicants could seek for recruitments in the existing organised agencies rather than sporadically set up parallel organisations with overlapping duties which will create unnecessary disasters in no distant time. Again, if the proposed body is not targeted as a political tool for the forthcoming elections, why the sudden pressure when it could run as voluntary organisation until there are a necessity, adequate resources and mechanism in place.

In sum, a new security organisation to be controlled by the Presidency should logically come through executive bills after a thorough consideration of the prerequisites, necessaries, funding and coordination. The DSS and the EFCC are productive on account of holistic planning prior to their establishment. Thus, an agency proposed to exist under the executive arm cannot suitably be a product of private sponsored bills. Undeniably, employment is a fundamental issue in any society but the principal objective of security agencies is not employment driven. It is perilous to empower a group with arms without proper coordination, control and training as the helpless society will certainly bear the repercussions. At this point, the appropriate legislative action is to deliberate extensively on the two cogent explanations by the President instead of absurdly gathering signatures as laws that are impracticable will inevitably retire in the wastebaskets. Generally, the legislature cannot arbitrarily foist a body on the executive without consensus, otherwise, it amounts to an abuse of legislative powers. Thus, to override the President should always be the last resort and strictly after extensive consultations with certainty of mischief.

Umegboro, public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abuja via umegborocarl@gmail.com (0705-710-1974 SMS only)

This piece was written by Carl Umegboro. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

Datboyjerry

Datboyjerry

I am but your herald boy in the art of the pen.. An eccentric Environmental Biologist smouldered in the glorious epiphany of online journalism. If you ever find my article unduly insipid, sue me and i’ll refund you...

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