Peace Corps is an independent agency and volunteer program that is dedicated to providing international economic and social assistance by affecting development. Initially set up by the United States Government, the agency has long gained the membership of other countries among which Nigeria is a case study.
Volunteers of the Peace Corps Agency work with government, businesses, health sectors, schools, organizations, information technology, education entrepreneurs, agriculture, and the environment. In view of its inception, more than 240,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and have set out in more than a hundred and forty countries.
On the 15th of March 2020, Peace Corps temporarily suspended its operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, over 7,000 members were evacuated from their posts, including Nigerians. Mid-March 2021, a good number of Peace Corps members were back at work even though there were no volunteers at the time. As at present, there is the probability that some volunteers will be returning to the field in a few countries in mid-2021.
Is Peace Corps of Nigeria Now Approved?
A move to recognize the Peace Corps of Nigeria as a federal security set-up is making headway in the National Assembly despite being rejected two years ago by the President, Muhammadu Buhari. This is the current development even as Peace Corps members continue their selfless actions of rendering security services to shopping malls, private facilities, schools, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and even other parts of the country.
Having its headquarters in Abuja and commanding in all the thirty-six states of Nigeria with a whopping 180,000 volunteers most of which are youths, the Peace Corps operates like a bonafide paramilitary structure. Consecutive findings by a number of news correspondents reveal that before members of the Peace Corps are enlisted, they are first subjected to one month drill.
A lot of persons hold the belief that the Peace Corps has filled a huge vacuum owing to the large number of youths who have found a source of livelihood through the volunteer services they render. Notwithstanding, many security experts in Nigeria hold the view that while the Peace Corps is found in several countries in the world and widely recognized as a voluntary organization that helps maintain social harmony and peaceful coexistence, making it a licit agency will be an additional burden on the Federal Government.
Efforts to make the Peace Corps a federal security outfit suffered a major setback after President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to its bill which was passed in the year 2018 by the National Assembly. When rejecting it, the President maintained that there was a shortage of funds to run the proposed agency. In addition, he identified pressing security concerns stating that some recruits of the proposed agency may be sponsored by dissidents.
The Persistence of The National Assembly in Effecting The Approval of Peace corps
It has been observed that despite the President’s rejection of the Peace Corps becoming a federal security set-up, a bill has been reintroduced at the National Assembly in efforts to get the Presidential approval in the legalizing of the agency as a bonafide federal security outfit. Amidst the recent developments, the organization has not relented in carry out its selfless activities in several parts of the country including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Daily Trust news outlet observed that certain schools and organizations in the Federal Capital Territory have persons in the blue and brown beret of the Peace Corps uniform guarding their premises. Regular checks by a number of news outlets reveal that the bill has passed first and second readings in the House of Senate.
Ndume, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, stated that he and his colleagues are persistently pushing for the passage and assent of the Peace Corps bill to address the problems of unemployment and insecurity that is overwhelming the country. The Senator who sponsored the Peace Corps bill at the Senate maintained that, the agency is internationally recognized and backed by the United Nations, hence it should be fully supported.
It has been observed that some security organizations within the country especially the Police do not want Peace Corps. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) which is the agency with powers under the Private Security Guard Companies Act to register private security companies argued that the reason for their nonapproval of the Peace Corps is that the agency is not registered with them.
When the Public Relations Officer of the Organization, Emmanuel Oke was contacted on behalf of the Peace Corps, he said the nonregistration of the Peace Corps may be because it carries out some other functions that are not security-related.
Despite the series of attempts to render the Peace Corps null and void in Nigeria, the second reading of the Peace Corps bill in Nigeria has received overwhelming support from stakeholders who hold the view that the outfit should be created to harness the teeming youths. With the recent developments, the selfless agency might be here to stay.