The minister of youths and sports, Solomon Dalung, has said the Peace Corps bill if signed into law would save Nigeria from the menace of criminality as its core mandate was to engage the youth.
The minister stated this on Wednesday when he formally received the copy of the harmonised version of the bill passed by National Assembly in his office.
He expressed hope that the presidency would give favourable consideration to the bill, which he said teeming Nigerian youth were anxiously waiting for.
“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,” Mr Dalung said.
He also said if Nigerian leaders fail to invest in youth today, they lack the moral ground to complain against criminality tomorrow.
Mr. Dalung, who also reacted to the recent clampdown on the Corps by the Nigerian Police, said the activities of the organisation “since 18 years ago, were not different from all other voluntary organisations which he was familiar with.”
“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 trainings that are regimental and they have been operating and making great contributions to peace and security in Nigeria,” he said.
He added that the current crime profile of the nation needed an equal efficient response.
“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.’’
He admonished the officers of the Corps to forgive those who opposed the bill, put the past behind them and work towards delivering on the core mandate of the organisation.
“Rather, you must put the bitter experiences behind you and look forward to delivering on your vision and mission, so that you would not seem to have betrayed Nigerians who have confidence in you.”
The Senate had recently passed a bill to make the Nigerian Peace Corps a paramilitary agency after years of stiff opposition from security agencies including the military, the police and the SSS.
Critics of the bill say such agency duplicates the functions of already existing security and paramilitary agencies, and creates a new bureaucracy for a government grappling with paying workers’ salaries.
The bill, passed by the National Assembly, is now waiting for the president’s approval. It is not clear if the president will sign the bill as the presidency has not made comments on it.