Members of the House of Representatives have reacted to the rejection of Nigerian Peace Corps Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President had, through a letter dated 25th January 2018 and submitted to the House yesterday, cited financial implications and duplication of duties of existing security agencies, as reasons for withholding his assent.
Reacting to the development, a member of the House of Representatives from Delta state, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, said the decision of the President would further aggravate the security challenges in the country, as the main objective of empowering the youths would have been defeated.
Ossai, who spoke with newsmen in his office on Tuesday, said the House would sit and x-ray the reasons that the president had given to see whether “they are reasonable or probably not.”
“If the reasons given by Mr president are not germane”, Ossai vowed that he will “personally lead a lobbying process to make sure the House vetos him.”
“Between now and tomorrow (Wednesday) be rest assured that we’ll come out with our opinion,” he said.
Similarly, the lawmaker representing Mushin II constituency of Lagos state, Yusuf Ayinla, said the issue must be looked at from the angle of unemployment.
The lawmaker who is of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said the Bill will help tackle the menace of unemployment in Nigeria.
“That Bill will help the President himself for lifting zero employment to a better place,” he said.
Though the glory would have gone to the President if he had appended his signature as one of his campaign promises to create jobs for the youths, Ayinla said, “but it is now a free opportunity for the National Assembly to take all the glory.”
He said the National Assembly will have to “sit down and look at the reasons for the president’s refusal to assent the bill and return it to him.”
He, however, said if it means overriding the President, he will wholeheartedly support and append his signature, saying he would not contribute to impeding whatever would benefit the youths, whom he said constitute largely to his constituency in Lagos.
Another APC lawmaker, Rt. Hon Goni Bukar Lawan representing Bursari/Gaida/Yunusar federal constituency of Yobe State, said withholding assent was not an end to a Bill under democracy.
Lawan, who hails from Dapchi, where over 100 school girls were abducted last week, said the abduction would have been averted if there was presence of internal security in the school premises.
He acknowledged that, the Bill establishing Peace Corps gives the youths mandate to man schools across the country for intelligence gathering and neighbourhood watch, which does not overlap with any existing security agency.
Aside the Petroleum Investment and Governance Bill (PIGB) which was passed by the Senate last year, the Nigerian Peace Corps Establishment Bill 2017 appears to be the most popular legislative piece and one of the greatest achievements of the 8th Assembly.
Recall that, during the incarcerations of the National Commandant of Peace Corps of Nigeria, Amb. Dr. Dickson Akoh, in the hands of security agencies last year, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, openly vowed that the National Assembly would not hesitate to override Mr. President, should he refuse to sign the Bill.
“If the president doesn’t assent for whatever reason to the Peace Corps Bill, we are at liberty to recall it back to parliament and muster the two-thirds in the House and Senate and pass it in spite of Mr. President’s veto,” Dogara had said.
Dogara said the parliament will not be distracted by the antics of existing security agencies, adding that the country cannot spend too much on security.
He said the police and other security agencies were acting in a manner similar to how they treated the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, in the run up to its adoption by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Security agencies did not only oppose the establishment of the NSCDC, its founder, Ade Abolurin, was also arrested on numerous occasions.
Today, Mr. Dogara said, the NSCDC had become a force for good in the country, perhaps even more than the police.
“That was the same argument when the Civil Defence Bill was before the House, that it could not be funded, that they were divulging some of the powers of the police to the Civil Defence, that it would never work.
“At the end of the day all these were surmounted and now we have the Civil Defence that in some cases some citizens have said that they are more dependable than the conventional police.
“I see them everywhere I travel to and they have become a pride of the society,” Dogara had said.
Though the letter transmitted to the National Assembly on withholding of assent was only read on the floor of the House, it is believed that the Senate receive the letter also.
As a legislative arm of government, the National Assembly is empowered by the provisions of section 58(5) of the 1999 constitution as amended, to override the President’s veto on Bills.
Section 58 (5) says, “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required”.
Order 12(b)(c) of the standing rules of the House of Representatives (2016), also provides that, the rejected Bill could be looked upon by the House, (through a motion) and if supported by two-thirds of the Reps, the Bill is proclaimed law without the assent of the President.
The first test of this constitutional oversight of the National Assembly came to play in 2001, when the then President Olusegun Obasanjo withheld his assent to the Niger Delta Development Commission Establishment Bill (NDDC).
The National Assembly tested their constitutional power and the Bill became law.
The establishment of the NDDC is acclaimed by many as the catalyst to development and bargaining power of the federal government in ending militancy and insecurity in the Niger Delta region today.