Editor's note: Abuja-based public affairs analyst, Garba Rabiu writes on the need for the federal government to strengthen the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC) and forget about setting up another agency that cannot equal what the corps stands for.
Since the battle to stop the passage and adoption of the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC) Bill in the National Assembly was lost and won, those who are not quite comfortable with what the Corps stands for, have been bellyaching and biting their fingers in considerable regret.
Determined to achieve their evil motive at all cost, they have been devising all manner of mischief with a view to either cutting the organisation to size or whittling down its influence in a way that will make it near-irrelevant.
Recently, the minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, was quoted as saying that the federal government was toying with the idea of establishing a National Guard to compliment the efforts of existing security agencies in addressing emerging security threats and emergencies in the country.
The minister, who reportedly made this disclosure in Abuja, when the Adjutant-General of the California National Guard, U.S, paid him a courtesy visit, stressed that a lot of consultations would be done before any decision is taken in that regard. He said the military was becoming increasingly involved in dealing with some security threats in the country which is outside their constitutional mandate while the police might be overstretched in dealing with such issues.
It would be recalled that, during the public hearing by the National Assembly on the Bill for the establishment of the Nigerian Peace Corps, out of about 268 Memoranda submitted and oral presentation made, only FOUR agencies, viz: Office of the Head of Service, ministry of interior, the police and the Civil Defence, opposed the Bill.
The reason adduced for their opposition was predicated on paucity of funds. They argued that since the nation was in recession, it will be pretty difficult for the government to appropriate further monies for an extra organisation. Isn’t it ironical that the same ministry that opposed the establishment of NPC is now championing the cause for the formation of another organization, the National Guard, which may eventually turn out to serve as private army to some desperate politicians, while also becoming an extra burden to the national treasury?
At this juncture, I crave the indulgence of readers to come along with me as we mount the horse and gallop down the memory lane of history. As far back as 1993, Nigeria had a National Guard under the leadership of Colonel Abdulmumuni Aminu, who announced then that the operatives of the National Guard would be deployed to Nigeria’s borders, and that its duties would not conflict with those of the army or the police. Unfortunately, it collapsed under the weight of series of contradictions inherent in its operational structure.
For all intents and purposes, NPC is essentially a youth-based organization, whose core mandate is: to develop, empower, and provide gainful employment to the youth in order to facilitate peace, community services, volunteerism, nation building, neighborhood watch, maintenance of discipline in all levels of educational institutions in Nigeria and other related matters.
The NPC Bill, when given effect by Mr. President, will however enhance the dignity of the Nigerian Youths as it will adequately engage them productively and redirect their untapped potentials towards nation-building rather than destructive tendencies. An objective assessment and critical analysis of this all important Bill will clearly reveal that the functions been sought by the Nigerian Peace Corps is akin to that of the American Peace Corps, Canadian Peace Corps, Bangladesh National Cadet Corps, Peace Officers Commission in China, Chinese Labour Corps, Lera Uniform Corps of Malaysia, Malaysian People Volunteer Corps, Production and Construction Corps of China, etc.
It is thus not a duplication of any existing government agencies but a body that when given a statutory backing will serve as a reservoir and feeder structure that will provide manpower for government establishments in times of needs, during emergencies and urgency.
On the other hand, in other parts of the world, the National Guard, which personnel is essentially drawn from existing military institutions, revolves around complimenting the services of existing security agencies in providing security at border posts and acting as reserves during emergencies such as war etc.
In America, the Reserve and National Guard components of the U.S. military are known to have made essential contributions to the nation’s defense. The Reserve and Guard make up roughly 38 percent of total U.S. uniformed manpower, and their organizations provide critical combat power and support.
Though traditionally supporting combat operations in a strategic reserve capacity, more recently, they have supported undersized active component forces in long-term engagements such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In as much as it is understandable for the proponents of the National Guard to be vociferous in their clamour for its establishment to compliment the services of the nation’s security agencies in ensuring the prevalence of peace in the country, the timing is completely inauspicious and the facts on ground do not support such a wasteful venture as epitomized in National Guard.
Apart from replicating and duplicating the functions of security agencies such as the police, armed forces and the Civil Defence Corps, the establishment of National Guard will only serve as another avoidable drain pipe on the nation’s dwindling resources. Instead of embarking on such a seemingly risky venture that flies in the face of economic wisdom, it will make more economic sense to strengthen existing security agencies like the armed forces, police and Civil Defence in terms of logistics, equipment etc and the Nigerian Peace Corps for volunteering and emergency purposes.
If half of the funds to be appropriated to the proposed National Guard are channelled to the aforementioned agencies, it will bring them at par with their counterparts in other parts of the world in terms of competence and professionalism.
At this point, even at the risk of sounding too patronising, it is important to stress here that Officers and men of the Peace Corps are quite young, vibrant, dynamic; highly resourceful and have displayed commendable bravery nay heroism in discharging their duties so far. So, such a coterie of committed and dedicated personnel will prove quite useful in complimenting the services of other security agencies in the maintenance of law and order in the country, if properly equipped and motivated.
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