By Joy Odor
Senate has considered the Conference Committee Report on the Nigerian Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill, 2023 just one week after the House of Representatives did same following the harmonisation of the area of difference between the two chambers.
Presenting the report on Tuesday on the floor of the Senate, the Chairman of the Harmonisation Committee in the Senate, Senator Kashim Shettima said the upper chamber adopted the version of the House on the bill, which is the “Nigerian Peace Corps Bill” instead of its version of the “Nigerian Unity and Peace Corps Bill” after harmonisation on the”minor discrepancy” as contained in clause 38(2) of the document.
Shettima, represented by Senator Seriake Dickson (PDP Bayelsa West) said the highlight of the adopted report is on clause 38 (1) of the version passed by the Senate which is in conflict with the version passed by the House of Representatives as contained under clause 38 (1).
Whereas the Senate’s version seeks dissolution of the existing Peace Corps of Nigeria and National Unity and Peace Corps, the House of Representatives version of the Bill solely recommends the dissolution of the existing Peace Corps of Nigeria to transform into the Nigerian Peace Corps when assented to President Buhari..
The conference report clarified that for a Bill to become an Act of Parliament in Nigeria, it must pass through the two Chambers of the National Assembly, a criteria which the National Unity and Peace Corps Bill could not attain because its Bill was never debated unlike that of the Peace Corps of Nigeria debated and passed by the two Chambers.
However, the Bill for an Act to establish the Nigeria Peace Corps expressly provided under clause 38 (8), a window of opportunity for individuals, groups, associations or bodies that show or demonstrate interest to be absorbed as members of the Corps shall be absorbed subject to the mandatory basic training and orientation program of the Corps as may be prescribed from time to time when the bill is signed into law.
The harmonized copy of the Bill would reach President Muhammadu Buhari’s table early enough so as to quicken Presidential assent to it.
According to part Vlll of the passed Bill, when assented to by President Buhari, would give statutory backing to the existing Peace Corps of Nigeria.
The bill, among others, seeks to establish the Nigerian Peace Corps as a body to be charged with the responsibility to develop, empower and provide gainful employment to youths, facilitate peace, volunteerism, community service, neighborhood watch and nation building.
It would be recalled that the Nigeria Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill passed in 2022 by the two chambers was sponsored by the chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume while that of the House of Representatives was sponsored by the Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Monguno.
The Corps, established over 24 years ago under the National Commandant, Professor Dickson Ameh Akoh is incorporated in Nigeria under the Company and Allied Matters (CAMA) Act and accorded the federal government recognition through the Federal Ministry of Youth Development.
Due to the value driven programs of the Corps, aimed at the socio-economic empowerment of the Nigerian youths and its onerous contributions to peace building and advocacy, the United Nations in 2011 accorded the organization a Special Consultative Status while the African Union in 2016 accorded same status to the organization, thus, making it a member of the Social and Economic Councils of both the United Nations and the African Union.