The recent refusal to sign the Peace Corps bill has created apprehension among thousands of Nigerian youths whose hope of being employed through the corps is now hanging in a balance. JOSEPH CHIBUEZE reports.
To the over 70,000 Nigerian youths who scrambled and toiled to get enlisted as cadets in the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN), the recent news of the refusal to ascent to the bill establishing the corps by President Muhammadu Buhari, has come as a thunder bolt shattering their hopes.
Of course they have been made to go through thick and thin in the hope that when the bill was signed into law, their world would change, as they would be gainfully employed among other expectations as soon as the bill was signed.
All that hope has simply evaporated into thin air, no thanks to the President’s action.
Some of the youths who spoke to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, looking visibly angry and dejected, asked rhetorically ‘what kind of government is this? “They promised to create jobs, but are blocking opportunities that would give thousands of youths employment.”
Mohammed Kabir from Kano state was seen standing with two of his friends, John Imasuen and Sani under a tree at the premises of the FCT Abuja command of the Peace Corps of Nigeria obviously wondering what the future holds for them with the latest development.
“I am just confused,” Mohammed began his story, “I am just totally confused. I left school in 2014, I read accountancy at the Kano State Polytechnic and since then I have been moving from one menial job to another. When I got the opportunity to enlist with the Peace Corps, last year, I was so happy that I didn’t mind some of the demands they were making as requirements for enlistment. When I saw the opportunities the Peace Corps offered me, I didn’t look back, I borrowed money to buy the form and make other payments.
My hope had been that when I get posted to a good place, from my salary I would pay back the loan. What would I do now that the President has refused to sign the bill?” One could see the pain and fear for the future in his eyes.
Mohammed represents the feeling of thousands of other Nigerian youths in different parts of the country who are also ‘fortunate’ to be recruited into the peace corps and are awaiting posting on the hope that the bill would be signed by the President.
Although not willing to share his thoughts or tell his story, John Imasuen preferred to believe that the National Assembly would keep their promise of over-riding the President. According to him, “All hope is not lost yet. Something can still happen. If members of the National Assembly passed the bill, they have a reason for passing it and they will not allow the narrow interest of a few individuals to prevail.”
The apprehension with which these youths are receiving this news is not unfounded. Nigeria has one of the highest youth unemployment figures in Africa with over 52.65 per cent, according to latest
figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This is compared to other African countries like Liberia with 4.7 per cent, Kenya 18.7 per cent, Egypt 26.3 per cent, South Africa 27.7 per cent (its highest in recent years), Lesotho 31.8 per cent, Libya, 43.8 per cent and Ghana 48 per cent.
It is no more news that scammers are cashing in on the huge unemployment situation in the country to fleece unsuspecting job seekers their hard earned money. In fact these days stories abound of job seekers paying hundreds of thousands for a non-existent government jobs.
Remember the recent claim that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) was recruiting. Ironically, screenshot of the NCS website showed that there were no available vacancies at the Service.
PCN Public Relations Officer, Patriot Millicent Umoru while responding to questions on what she thought could have informed the President’s decision not to sign the bill said, the President was being ill-advised by some selfish individuals.
According to her, “We have been having a running battle with the Nigerian Police which think we are coming to take over their job. But that is not true, Peace Corps is basically to provide intelligence for the Police. We do not have the power to arrest or prosecute, our duty is basically with schools and neighbourhood watch. We are not in competition with the police in any way.”
Umoru who suddenly became emotional wondered why youths will not keep finding their way out of the country when the authorities keep frustrating them at every turn. “For more than a year, the police sealed our headquarters and they have refused to leave there even when there are two court judgments ordering them to leave,” she said, adding, “How can we move forward as a country when we do not follow the rule of law?”
Although there have been calls from different quarters including the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) among others, urging the President to rescind his decision and sign the bill, there are also dissenting voices saying that there is no need for another paramilitary body in Nigeria.
Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, though acknowledged the role National Commandant of PCN, Dr. Dickson Akoh played in the resolution of the crisis in NYCN, he does not see the need for Peace Corps in the Nigeria security system. For him, the body can exist as a non-governmental organization (NGO) doing voluntary works and getting support from government from time to time, but not for it to exist as an agency of government.
“What problem is the Peace Corps going to solve that the Police and Civil Defense cannot solve if they are empowered,” he queried. “If the police is properly equipped in terms of intelligence gathering, do we need another agency to come in?”
On what becomes of the youths who paid through their nose to enlist in the corps, he said, “We warned people not to pay that money but they will not listen believing that the bill will be passed. Now they have themselves to blame.”
All eyes are now on the National Assembly to see if they can muster the two thirds majority required by the constitution for them to be able to veto the President and pass the bill as an Act of Parliament just like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) bill.