For the first time in the life of the present National Assembly and the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, the legislature will this week take a daring step to challenge the president and prove to the nation that they cannot be dictated to by the executive arm of the government. File: Peace-Corps Competent sources in the two chambers of the NASS confirmed to Vanguard, Sunday night, that they would take decisive action to override President Buhari’s rejection of the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill, which they laboured to pass last year and transmitted to the Presidency before the end of last year.
One of the lawmakers told Vanguard that the leadership of the two chambers of the NASS was disappointed by the decision of the executive to jettison the bill, which the lawmakers consider as a ‘priority’ to boost their political mileage in the forthcoming election. The lawmaker, who is a ranking member of the House of Representatives, pointed out that the NPC bill meant a lot to members of the legislature given the number of their constituents they had already ‘secured employment forms for’ with a lot of money.
The official said they had the number required by law to overturn Buhari’s rejection of the bill and make it an Act of the Parliament as was the case with the Niger Delta Development Commission in 2000 when the then President Olusegun Obasanjo withheld assent to the bill.
“I can tell you that the NPC bill is like a referendum on most of the lawmakers in Nigeria and we will prove to the Presidency that this bill cannot be thrown away just like that.
“If we fail to make it to become law and give legal backing to the Nigerian Peace Corps, most of our members would have unwittingly we dug their political graves in many states of the country,” another ranking lawmaker from the Northeast, told one of our correspondents on Sunday.
Vanguard learnt that the leadership of the NASS had already mobilized support from both the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition People’s Democratic Party to prepare for the showdown with the presidency, which they have been embroiled in several political feuds in recent times.
However, when contacted yesterday, the Spokesman for the House of Representatives, Abdulrazaq Namdas, played down on the move to counter Buhari on the rejected bill, saying that the NASS was still studying the bill. Namdas said that it was only after studying the President’s rejection letter that the NASS would take necessary action.
“It is after we have exhaustively scanned through Buhari’s letter rejecting the bill that we can take a definite action on the matter,” Namdas said. Similarly, the Spokesman for the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, APC, Niger North, vowed the Senate would do what the Constitution specifies once the President refuses assent to the Peace Corps Bill. Senator Abdullahi said,
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for what should be done if a bill has been passed by the National Assembly, transmitted to the President for assent and he fails to do that. I think that was what was done on the issue of the NDDC Bill for example. “So in this case, as much as many of us are aligned to the need to have the Peace Corps and we believe that it will add to provide another layer of our security system it should be allowed.
“Remember the bill says that the agency is not going to be part of the Interior Ministry but that of Youths and it is designed actually to help to support the youths in so many ways through engagements, volunteerism and many other things.
“For me, the Peace Corps as a very good thing; it is not new to Nigeria but it is happening in many other countries and that was why we approved it in the first place,” the Senator explained.
But the as the lawmakers attempt to revive the corps, the fate of thousands of Nigerians who parted with N40,000 each for the agency’s employment forms, now hangs in the balance, as the police are now armed with more powers to move against its officials for operating an illegal organization.
The embattled leader of the NPC, Dickson Akor, had explained last year that the N40,000 the agency collected per applicant was for training materials as the agency did not enjoy any financial support from the government.