The Nigerian Minster of Youths and Sports Development, Barr. Solomon Selcap Dalung, has raised strong advocacy for the establishment of Nigerian Peace Corps.
Dalung said, when signed into law, the Peace Corps would save Nigeria and Nigerians from the menace of criminality, as its core mandate was to engage the youths who were currently roaming the streets.
The Minister, who formally recieved the copy of the harmonised version of the Bill passed by the National Assembly in his office on Wednesday, also expressed hope that the Presidency would give consideration to the bill, which he said teeming Nigerian youths were anxiously waiting for.
“For me as a Minister of youth, I have alot of young people on the street which everyday I loose my sleep over what we should do for them. So if we have this organisation coming up and depopulating these young people, it will be a celebration that our problems are reducing on daily basis.
“On this note, I call on all Nigerians with the initiative of opportunity of engaging our young people, to please put it into practice. Let’s join our hands together and engage our young people productively so that we can be sure of a better country tomorrow.
“If we do not invest in the youths today, we are investing in criminals tomorrow. If we fail to invest in youths today, we lack the moral ground to complain against criminality tomorrow”, the Minister said.
The Minister also reacted to the recent clampdown on the Corps by the Nigerian Police, saying the activities of the organisation since 18 years ago, were not different from all other voluntary organisations which he was familiar with.
He said, “Just like every other voluntary organisation under the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, we have the Nigerian Boys Scout, they wear uniform, they have regimented operation, they train and they contribute positively to maintaining law and order in this country.
“The Nigerian Man’O’War dress even in the manner that is similar to the military, they are involved in training that are regimental training, they have been operating and making great contributions to peace and security in Nigeria.
“We have the Red Cross, we have the Boys Brigade, we have the Girls Brigade, we have so many of such organisations that are affiliated to the ministry.
“The Primary responsibilities and intentions of these organisations is to create and accommodate the teeming youth population of this very great nation of ours.
“I must start by commending those organisations, because if they had not created those spaces, we could not have imagined what could have become of our young people. The crime profile would have been more sophisticated than it is today. It could have also escalated to a very fast speed, like the GSM speed.
“We must not turn blind eyes to the effort of anybody in this country who is legitimately involved, in engaging our young people, to train them into the future leaders, by engaging them within the time space in which they will officially have something doing”.
Dalung admonished the Officers of the Corps to forgive those who stood in opposition of their bill, put the past behind them and work towards delivering on the core mandate of the organisation.
His words, “I must congratulate the Nigerian Peace Corps for this bill and as we await the assent of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I want to appeal to the organisation to first consider the process of the struggle for a legislative backup as part of the sacrifices that every other organisations would pass through.
“The Nigerian Peace Corps must erase from its memory, any act of bitterness or vendetta against any individual or imaginary enemies or perceived or conceived personalities as those who were opposed to the evolution of the Corps as a legal entity.
“Rather, you must put the bitter experiences behind you and look forward to delivering on your vision and mission, so that you would not be seem to have betrayed Nigerians who have confidence in you.
“For those who might have not been able to understand or appreciate what is the vision and the mission of the Peace Corps, I would recommend the abridged and harmonised version of the legislation to them, so they can find in it, what the organisation stands for”.
The Minister, however, advised Nigerians and other agencies, to henceforth, gauge the conduct of Peace Corps officers with the abridged version of the Bill recently adopted by both chambers of the National Assembly.
“Henceforth, I think we should gauge the activities of the organisation with this piece of legislation, if they run foul of what is provided in the law, then we would have a high moral ground to accuse them of any wrong doing.
“I must also warn that the organisation must remain disciplined. It must remain law abiding. It must also warn its officers, so that during this period of trial, they must not be found to be wanting.
“May I also remind you that the harmonised version of the legislation has put the Nigerian Peace Corps in the court of public opinion for trial. You must not give Nigerians the evidence to convict you for not living up to your expectations.
“Everything that must be done, must be done within the confines of law. As you continue to do that which you believe is fair, my prayer is that Almighty God should see you through”, he added.
On his part, the National Commandant of the Corps, Amb. (Dr.) Dickson Akoh, said the visit of the officers to the Honourable Minister was necessary, so as to brainstorm on the abridged version of the Bill and seek his support for the executive assent, since the Corps would be domiciled under his ministry, when established.
Akoh took his time to officially brief the Minister about his arrest and 49 others by the security agencies early this year, stressing that the harassment was not unconnected to the passage of the Bill at the National Assembly.
He insisted that the organisation had not breached any law that would warrant the incessant humiliations from the security agencies, adding that, both Nigeria Police and other agencies had severally issued reports to extricate the Corps of any corrupt practices.
The Commandant was confident that himself and the Trustees of the Peace Corps of Nigeria would emerge victorious from the ongoing onslaught against them, including the 90-count charge instituted against them by the Nigerian Police.