The recent decline by President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Peace Corps of Nigeria Establishment Bill has continued to elicit impassioned reactions.
It has, no doubt, become one of the dominant themes in national discourse lately.
Buhari had, in a recent letter read by Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, House of Representatives, cited “scare government resources’’ and duplication of duties currently being performed by extant security and law enforcement agencies as his reasons for rejecting the bill.
The president’s stance has attracted a flurry of appeals by Nigerians, especially youths, urging the president to revisit the bill. It has also attracted commendations.
For the sake of hindsight, the bill was passed in the House of Representatives in June 2016; and passed in the Senate November same year.
The two chambers thereafter set up a conference committee to reconcile the areas of differences in the bill.
In July 2017, 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.
Thus, the clean copy of the bill, marked ‘Nigerian Peace Corps Establishment Bill 2017’ was transmitted to the Presidency on December 2017.
Startled by the president’s decision to withhold assent, Senate said it might evoke the relevant constitutional powers vis a vis the bill.
This followed the adoption of a Point of Order raised by Sen. Dino Melaye during plenary.
Relying on the Senate rules, Melaye urged the Senate to revisit the bill with a view to vetoing the president if he failed to rescind his decision.
Melaye said that the bill should be given priority by Buhari.
“The same thing happened when the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was to be established; there was also the same complaint that there was no money and all of that.
“But today we can see the advantages of the civil defence and how they have helped in safeguarding the government infrastructure.
“About 5.5 billion dollars was borrowed from euro bond; what part of it will the youths of this country benefit from.
“About one billion dollars is to be spent on security and how does this affect the youth of this country.
“Without fear or favour, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in 16 years, borrowed N6 trillion and this government in three years, has borrowed N11 trillion but there is no specific programme that will empower the youth.
“Also, N500 billion was earmarked for the social investment programme of the Federal Government but we have not seen any impact.
“If the Peace Corps is given an opportunity to exist, thousands will be employed and this will help to fight unemployment in this country.
“We may need to write Mr president to review his position if not we have the power on behalf of the Nigerian youths who voted us to veto him so that people will become the ultimate beneficiaries of this bill.
“The youth of this country must be given priority and they must be respected,’’ Melaye said.
Lending their voice, Kano youths under the aegis of Kano Youths for Change Initiative (KYCI) appealed to Buhari to reconsider his decision on the Peace Corps Bill.
KYCI’s, Convener, Zaharadeen Ahmed, said the youths were surprised that the president declined assent to such youth-oriented bill.
Ahmed said he was imagining what would become of the huge number of youths who had received distinctive training for various national engagements by the Nigeria Peace Corps.
“The thoughts of having these huge numbers thrown back to the streets to idle away are better imagined than felt as it is said that “an idle mind, is the devil’s workshop.
“We make bold to ask our father, Mr President, what do we then expect from these youths other than increase in organized crimes and other mischievous activities leading to social vices?
“It is in this light that we wish to appeal to the president to give cogent attention to any programme or ideas that are set to productively improve the degrading state of the army of unemployed youths in the country.
“One of such programme or idea is the yet-to-be-born Peace Corps of Nigeria. We call on Buhari to rescind his decision and assent to the Peace Corps Establishment Bill for the sake of our teeming youths lessening away in jails over avoidable crimes committed out of pure idleness.”
He said the Peace Corps was not a security outfit as alleged by other security agencies but a core advocacy and technical support agency meant to provide legitimate supportive skills for our youths as a proactive instrument for growth and development tool.
Ahmed said that the corps could be a sublime panacea against communal, inter-ethnic, cult-related crisis through intelligence gathering from social events, schools, markets among others to extant security agencies.
“We appeal to our president once again to recall the bill and append his esteemed signature to the Peace Corps Establishment Bill.
“We believe this will serve as one of the most effective, and by and large, a viable avenue for job creation and nation building as he promised Nigerians during the electioneering campaign before the 2015 general elections.
“If this is done, Kano State and her youths will continue to support President Buhari’s aspirations and efforts of the APC-led government to put Nigeria on the right paths with sincere hope that this when keyed into will go a long way in serving as a potent campaign gimmick in the forthcoming general elections,’’ he said
Sharing similar sentiments, the African Youth Support Centre (AYSC) urged Buhari to make a U-turn on the bill.
The AYSC Director, Ben Duntoye, said that the news of rejection of the bill came as a shock.
“Having served as two time President of the Nigerian Youth and former President of the Pan African Youth Union, which is the umbrella body for all African Youth, I make bold to assert that there is need for positive engagement of the Nigerian Youth.
“The need to engage Nigerian youth into patriotic, developmental and economically viable ventures through various platforms is most imperative and can never be over-emphasised, of which the Nigerian Peace Corps as proposed in the Bill remains one of the most practicable concepts ever conceived towards youth development and empowerment in Nigeria.”
Duntoye said that a critical look at the document showed that the Nigerian Peace Corps, as proposed, was designed to be a vehicle for mass mobilisation and engagement of the Nigerian youths into regimental community development services and hoc interventions.
He listed such ad hoc interventions as National Clean up Exercise, Population Census, Voters Registration and Elections, Maintenance of Peace and Order in Schools and Public Places and general Neighbourhood Services, which is an existing gap in our National Development efforts.
The director said that going by the foregoing, talking about overlap of responsibility with any existing structure was totally out of place.
“The national outburst of jubilation across the country that followed the news of the passage of the Bill by both Chambers of the National Assembly was a clear and good testimony that the NPC Bill was both people oriented and commanded the general goodwill of well-meaning Nigerians and the masses.”
According to him, the NPC can be established without full salary, but sustainable subvention till the nation’s economy improves.
He said that with proper legislative backing, the outfit could, on its own, source financial support from the Organised Private Sector and Development Partners, and be useful in nation building, without stringent financial burden on government purse.
“We call on Buhari to quickly reconsider and retract his position on this matter.’’ he said.
More so, the forum of Youths National Presidents of Ethnic Nationalities in Nasarawa state has called on the members of the National Assembly to override Buhari veto to sign the Peace Corps establishment bill, 2017 into law in order to reduce youths restiveness in the country.
Barr.Auna Iliya, the Coordinator of the forum, said that overriding presidential veto on the bill would go a long way in creating job opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths as well as promote peaceful co-existence in the country.
“We wish to join millions of Nigerians in expressing our opinion and stand on the matter.
“The Peace Corps of Nigeria is the organisation that, if approved will among others, address unemployment challenge and reduce the rate of criminality in the country, hence should not be thrown out just like that,’’ he said.
Nonetheless, Buhari has also received the backing of some Nigerians in his decision to withhold assent to bill.
The Conference of Nigeria Political Party (CNPP), Edo Chapter, said that the rejection of the bill was a welcome development and right step in the right direction.
He said that assenting to bill was a mere duplication of mandate of security agencies in the country, adding that the issue should not be politicised
“As it were, we already have several security agencies whose function or mandates overlap; creating another one in the name of creating employment will create chaos in the system.
“This is why the Edo CNPP wishes to commend the President for such bold step and futuristic evaluation of the situation.
“However, to fight unemployment, we believe that qualified members of Peace Corps can be recruited into sister agencies like police and civil defense.
“Edo CNPP strongly believed that the rejection of Peace Corp bill was done in good fate for the betterment of Nigeria and Nigerians.
“Therefore, we call on Nigerians and affected members of the public, particularly members of the corps, not to view it as hatred or lack of concern by the president but accept the decision without disappointment.
“Research conducted by us shown that Nigerians are happy with the rejection, but call on Mr President to prevail on the sister agencies to recruit them accordingly.
“Too many security agencies will give room for lack of proper coordination and clashes within security arrangement.
“Finally, Edo CNPP urges PMB to maintain his stand in spite of the open shows of opposition demonstrated so far by some persons without considering the financial implications.”
By most accounts, perceptive observers are of the view that the pros of the Peace Corps far outweigh its cons; hence the need for the president to make a volte face.
Refusal to obey court order is corruption – Emir
The Emir of Gummi, Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi (retd.), says refusal to obey a court order is another form of corruption, noting that government must exemplify the change it promised before expecting citizens to follow suit.
He said disrespect for the rule of law, bad governance, disobedience to court orders, non-compliance with electoral regulations by political parties, godfathers hijacking the electoral process and dwindling confidence in the justice system posed threats to Nigeria’s democracy.
The monarch, who was the keynote speaker at the Barewa Old Boys Association annual lecture, held at the Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic, Sokoto, spoke on the topic, ‘The challenges of the judiciary to democracy: The Nigeria perspective.’
The 97-year old college, located in Kaduna State, is reputed for producing five out of Nigeria’s past leaders, including General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, late Umaru Yar’adua, late Gen. Murtala Mohammed and the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
It has also produced three Chief Justices of Nigeria, three Inspectors-General of Police and four Secretaries to the Government of the Federation.
But in his address, Gummi described the judiciary as the watchdog of democracy, without which “reckless marauders will attack the society,” adding that an insecure judiciary is one of the greatest threats to democracy.
He said, “Orders of court are disobeyed at will in the name of fighting corruption. No one institution, no matter how highly placed, should flout the laws of the land, not even under the guise of fighting corruption. Refusing to obey an order of court is another form of corruption in itself.
“The executive cannot play the role of both the accuser and that of the judge at the same time. It is an aberration in a democracy. National security cannot take precedence over the rule of law; rather, it should be guided by the rule of law.
“Any democracy where the executive tries to intimidate and harass the legislature and/or the judiciary into doing its bidding is a democracy under threat. In the same vein, it is not right in a democracy for the National Assembly to make governance difficult for the executive for pecuniary reasons. “We all agree that we need change as promised by the government, but that change must first begin with them, then, you and me.”
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The recurring struggle against female circumcision in Nigeria
By Osaro Itua
The story of one Mrs. Gbe (not complete name) who has a hard time preventing her 11yr old daughter from under-going the outlawed, inhuman and barbaric age long tradition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) still been practiced by her In-Laws who hail from one of the remote areas of Edo State in South-South Nigeria is a sad tale that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
She hails from the Eastern part of Nigeria and met her husband Mere (not complete name) in 2004. After dating for about 2yrs, they decided to get married. However, their decision was met with stiff opposition from Meres immediate and extended family, who insisted that Mrs Gbe must undergo a traditional ritual which will be rounded up with her circumcision before her bride price will be paid. They explained that every female member of the family either by birth or marriage has undergone this ritual hence theyre fertile in their marriages. While the male family members also have to undergo their own rituals, the female circumcision ritual which will see the cutting off of certain parts of the vagina by the local herbalist using crude implements and local herbs is the climax of the exercise. Most young girls and women have contracted very serious vaginal infections during this procedure which ultimately lead to their death. This is because, when they fall sick from the infections, no orthodox medical treatment is allowed as it is expected that if the girl or her mother is pure, she will recover from the resultant illness by use of native herbs. When death occurs, it is termed as the will of the ancestors and as such should not be questioned. Mrs Gbe vehemently refused this proposal and had the backing of Mere. His family, nevertheless, insisted that he would only be allowed to marry her upon the completion of this ritual.
This stand-off continued till sometime in 2006 when she became pregnant for Mere. All pleas to have the traditional marriage fell on deaf ears as his family was determined to circumcise her. She eventually had their first child — a baby girl in November 2006 and this opened another chapter of woes for her and Mere.
Since a female child has been born and as is customary in the family, Mrs Gbe was requested to bring the child for circumcision before she clocked 1 year. She also resisted this request and of course, it opened a second round of trouble for her. This time around, Meres Kindred were emphatic and categorical in their demand for their granddaughter to be circumcised. They further emphasized that nothing in this world would stop that from happening except death.
Mere and his wife didnt take seriously to this threat until one faithful morning of the 12th of June 2007 when mother and daughter were returning from a routine immunization round and they were viciously attacked by unknown assailants. Mrs Gbe who was driving alone with the baby strapped on the baby car seat behind her were double crossed by a black Mercedes Benz car while on a lonely stretch of road leading to her house. She received a massive blow to the head and passed out instantly.
However, the assailants couldnt make away with the baby as their efforts were immediately ruined by the brave efforts of two young men who were driving past. They fought the assailants to a stand-still and rescued the baby from their hands. On realizing the failure of the operation, the assailants took to their heels. This afforded the good Samaritans the opportunity to immediately evacuate Mrs. Gbe to the hospital. She was in a coma for 2 days and thereafter spent another 2 weeks in the intensive care of a private hospital. She spent a total of 6 weeks in the hospital and made sufficient recovery before she was discharged home. A report of the incident was made to the Police who pledged to investigate and bring the perpetrators to book. Nothing was ever heard from them.
Surprisingly, Meres mother and key extended family members said that the attack occurred as a result of their refusal to proceed with the circumcision ritual. They blamed Mrs Gbe for the incident and repeatedly said “… this happened because of her stubbornness…” hence their demand for the ritual became heightened. To make matters worse, they started referring to Mere as an outcast and openly said they will ostracize him from the family if he doesnt heed to their demands.
He was given a deadline for December 2007 to bring his wife and daughter for the ritual else, he would be cast away from the family and every right to inheritance of family property be taken away from him. He was also requested to stop using the family name and a curse was placed upon any member of the kindred who will communicate and keep contact with him, his wife or daughter. They were accused of bringing ill-luck to the kindred and must die as a way of cleansing and appeasing the ancestral spirits. These will be done if he doesnt comply by the deadline.
As a result of the entire incident and the resulting threats to his life and that of his wife and daughter, Mere quickly relocated his young family to Abuja in November 2007. When the baby clocked 1 year in the same month, he took his wife to the marriage Registry where they formalized their union with a Court marriage.
However, the threats to his wife and baby re-surfaced from members of their Community Development Association (CDA) resident in Abuja. They insisted that Mere must take his wife and daughter back home for the circumcision rituals to avoid bringing calamities upon their community. They were actually physically attacked during one of their outings in Abuja. Some touts from one of the popular motor parks within the city metropolis were hired to carry out the act. Right in the presence of his wife and kid, Mere was beaten to a pulp and he lost some teeth in the process. While attempting to raise an alarm for the attention of passers-by, his wife was slapped severally. They touts thereafter dispossessed them of their jewelries, wristwatches, mobile phones and cash. Before leaving, they told Mere that he should go back home to his community and do what he has been asked to do else, himself and his wife may not survive to tell the story. This then prompted them to relocate further North of Nigeria and far away from Edo State.
They headed for Jos, the Plateau State Capital in 2010 and lived in a quiet community in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area amongst the Berom people who were predominantly farmers. They had more kids, established a farm business and built a home until the killer herdsmen struck their community on the night of June 23rd 2018. They had gotten a whim of the attack about 2 days before it actually occurred. They however paid no mind, noting that the Government security agencies were on ground to forestall any further breakdown of law and order. However, on that faithful night, they were jolted from sleep by gunshots sound from not too far away from their home and it continued ceaselessly. This prompted Mere and his wife to quickly grab the children up and upon getting outside through the back door, they saw several houses in the distance have been set ablaze and the attackers heading in their direction while shooting indiscriminating and killing every moving object in their sight.
They joined other neighbours in running towards the opposite direction and continued on foot for about 1 hour till they reached the Nghar Yelwa area and ran into a Mosque where the Imam shielded them from the attackers till security agents arrived in the morning of June 24th 2018.
By the next day, they returned under heavy security watch to their community and discovered that their entire house and personal belongings have been raised down by the attackers. This completely broke their spirit and they immediately moved back to Abuja to seek refuge with friends while planning on how to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on.
Upon arriving Abuja, they were once more greeted with the demand to go back home and carry out the circumcision ritual on Mrs Gbe and her daughters. Infact, the first daughter will clock 12yrs in November 2018 and they have been given that date as the final deadline to go back to their village and carry out the exercise. They were further assured that refusal to do so will result in the death of Mere, his wife or any of the children. Mrs Gbe has reached out to various Non-Governmental organizations for assistance, but none has yielded positive responses. Mere’s clan and kindred are vehemently bent on ensuring that she comes forward with her daughters for the initiation ritual.
One can only but imagine the agony this family is going through with their family kindred after them and their experience in the hands of the dreaded fulani herdsmen as a result of the incessant attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
Despite the existence of the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Law in Nigeria, it is heartbreaking to note that this issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still prevalent in the Country. The Law which seeks to prohibit female circumcision or genital mutilation, forceful ejection from home and harmful widowhood practices, prohibits forced isolation, depriving persons of their liberty, economic abuse, incest, separation from family and friends, substance attack and indecent exposure, among others.
However, the existence of this law has not deterred its practice in most local communities in Nigeria. The lack of enforcement has militated against the practicability of the law. The apathy of those that should enforce this ban has been stated as one of the main issues why the practice is still popular.
Also, the lack of awareness of the dangers posed by FGM is another problem. It is imperative at the juncture for the executive to charge those responsible with enforcement with the need to do the needful.
The Community leaders, traditional Institutions and practitioners of herbal medicine must be educated on the dangers associated with this barbaric, and nauseating cultural practice.
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