‘How Nigerian Senators took bribes to pass Peace Corps Bill’

Nigerian Senators allegedly received  ‘favours’ in form of job slots and cash reward from the promoters of the proposed paramilitary organisation so as to pass the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill.

According to Premium Times, quite a number of senators received at least seven employment slots each to back the bill, which was passed to, amongst other things, create the Nigerian Peace Corps as the country’s newest law enforcement agency.

Some of the lawmakers considered key to the passage of the law got as much as 500 slots, the report claims.

Other senators received cash rewards for their acquiescence, multiple senators, including those who benefited.

The Peace Corps has, however, denied such interaction so the Bill is passed.

“At no point did our organisation offered any bribes to lawmakers,” the group’s spokesperson, Milicent Umoru said on Thursday.

“The bill actually suffered a whole lot before it was finally adopted a few days ago.”

 Both chambers of the National Assembly passed the bill “because they see it as necessary to curb acute unemployment amongst Nigerian youth,” she added.

The Senate approved the harmonised version of the controversial bill on Tuesday, despite deep scepticism from its own Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters that the bill offers virtually no unique service to the public.

The committee chairman, David Umaru, who was mandated by the Senate to look into the significance of the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill, delivered a scathing review of the paramilitary group when he laid the findings of his committee before the Senate Tuesday.

“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,” Umaru, APC-Niger East, said.

The senator said the attempts by promoters of the Peace Corps to make government absorb it was strange and starkly different from the approach of its sister organisation 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,” Umaru said. “Rather, its employment is for a limited period of five years only for regular employees and 24 months for volunteers.”

Umaru, however, went on to recommend that the Senate should proceed with passing the harmonised version of the Peace Corps Bill, clearing the way for its onward transfer to the president’s desk for assent.

At a House committee hearing during consideration of the bill, the Office of the Head of Service (HoS) said several government agencies with similar mandates as Peace Corps already exist and listed the Ministry of Youth Development and Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity and Ministry of Environment as examples.

Other existing law enforcement agencies include Ministry of Education, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, National Orientation Agency, National Poverty Eradication Programme and, National Directorate of Employment. The list is far from being exhausted, the head of service said.

Consequently, the HoS urged lawmakers to consider “the implications of the proposed creation of Nigerian Peace Corps on the cost of governance and duplication of duties of existing agencies.”

“Apart from the cash bribes that they offered, they even gave some key lawmakers who worked to ensure that the bill was passed more than 1000 job slots,” a senator said.

Promoters of the Peace Corps also put pressure on some lawmakers through their constituents.

“They asked our constituents to inundate us with calls about jobs prospects in the Peace Corps,” the senator said.

Other than the possible employment opportunities that an established Peace Corps could bring to Nigerian youth, there appears to be no other unique reason for its creation.

But even “this can be achieved by strengthening existing agencies and not necessarily creating a new one so as not to overburden the federal government,” Umaru said.

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