By Yemi Itodo
National Commandant of Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN), Amb (Dr.) Dickson Akoh, has charged members of the Corps to take advantage of the extension of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise and get registered.
Akoh said, any officer or volunteer of the Corps who does not comply with the instruction would not be issued identity card during the 2019 membership revalidation.
PCN currently boasts of 157,000 regular officers and about 2 million volunteers across the country.
Had the Peace Corps Bill enjoyed the assent of President Muhammad Buhari, the Corps would have provided jobs for about 3 million Nigerian youths nationwide in the first phase.
Addressing newsmen at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Sunday night, while leading a 5-man delegation of PCN to UN 67th DPI/NGO Conference in New York, Akoh said, time has come for the organisation to make a statement in Nigeria’s democracy, using its numerical strength.
“All Peace Corps officers in Nigeria, numbering over 157 thousand and our volunteers close to 2 million have been told that, this is a time to make statement in democracy and then I have ordered them to renew their identity card next year, so they must have PVC. Without PVC to vote, nobody would issue identity card to any of our members nationwide”, Akoh said.
The National Commandant expressed optimism that the Peace Corps Bill would come to light, adding that, the President has the liberty constitutionally to recall the Bill after 6 months and assent to it.
He said, “we have been appealing, we would continue to appeal. We don’t blame the President for whatever action he might be taking but the agency that tends to criminalize, label the good and noble intention of the youths or citizen before the authority because we don’t have access to the government, are the same people that scrutinize documents and representation we always send.
“Whether Mr. President has seen such documents, we don’t know. We would continue to appeal to Mr. President to revisit that bill”.
On the excuse of lack of fund cited by the President, Akoh said, if the government wanted, it would have been absorbing the youths in phases, with the pilot phase not more than 20,000 members.
“The issue of recession is gone. You will recall when we held press conference, we prayed earnestly as Peace Corps of Nigeria for the country to get out of recession. We are out of recession. So if financial constraint is cited, I don’t think we are into that kind of recession.
“And again, if you look at what happened when the National Security and Civil Defence Corps Bill was passed, it was a gradual integration of the members into the mainstream. If we say we have 157 thousand officers and 2 million volunteers, it is not compulsory that everyone is carried along immediately, even if it is 20,000.
“If government can sign this Bill now, gradually, those who have been trained and other youths can be integrated, it would speak more for the government effort to create job opportunities and improve the security architecture of this country”, Akoh advised.
When asked if he would use the platform to report various abuse of human rights of Peace Corps members and violations of court orders by the Nigerian Security agencies to the international community, Akoh said his organisation would not say anything to ridicule Nigeria before the UN assembly.
“Our activities are committed towards nation building and Peace Corps would not be part of anything that would ridicule Nigeria before the international community.
“Whatever is happening to Peace Corps now has its time and when the time comes, the Police will see the need to obey court orders.
“You are aware that just two days ago, they still invaded our office in Kano and arrested 28 excos and clammed them into detention claiming they belong to unlawful association.
“This is a case that two federal high courts have declared illegal. It is no longer our fight as Peace Corps but an attempt to ridicule the rule of law. We are going out to project Nigeria in the highest light without saying anything that will ridicule the effort of us to move on”, he added.
Ever since the UN granted a Special Consultative Status to the PCN in 2013, the organisation has been playing leading roles and contributing to UN policies on peace-building and youth development, by attending international functions including the UN General Assembly.
The DPI/NGO Conference of the UN is held annually across the advanced society to sample the views of Non-Governmental Organisations on how to meet the targets of the United Nations vision 2030.
The 67th Conference of the gathering of NGOs is organized by Department of Public Information DPI and is to be chaired by Ms. Winnie Byanyima of Oxfam International.
About 2000 delegates from all over the world drawn from 300 NGOs in 80 countries are expected to conference in New York City for the program which shall hold from 22nd to 23rd August, 2018.