By Rogers Edor Ochela
For myopic critics of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN), who relish in unnecessarily generating needless controversies or worse still, spinning web of lies around the corps, their day of reckoning came during the investigative hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on the raging controversies over the passage of the Bill for an Act to Establish the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC).
The event, which took place at the Committee’s Conference Room at the National Assembly (NASS) on Tuesday, 30th May 2017, was attended by the members of the Committee led by its Chairman, Senator David Umaru; a formidable media team, the founder and chairman of Board of Trustees of the National Unity and Peace Corps (NUPEC), Professor Humphrey Ogoegbunam and the self-styled Commandant-General of NUPEC, Dr Chinedu Nneji etc.
It would be recalled that since the passage of the Bill by the Senate on Thursday, 24th November 2016 (after it was earlier passed by the House of Representatives) and the harmonization of differences observed in twelve clauses by the Conference Committee set up by both Chambers on Thursday, 19th January, 2017, enemies of the Corps went haywire, spreading all manner of lies about the organization and its founder, Dr Dickson Akoh, championed essentially to torpedo the rising corporate profile of the corps. The situation got so bad that those who had earlier invested their hopes and aspirations in the corps started having a rethink.
It was in the midst of all these that Dr Akoh and a battalion of his lieutenants stormed the NASS following an invitation extended to him by the committee.
Akoh, who went down the memory lane of history, narrated how the PCN started in Kaduna, following the success of its precursor, the Militia Corps in Lagos in 1990, held the members of the Committee spell-bound with his well-articulated presentation, which was laced with facts and figures.
Akoh marshaled his points with the dexterity of a professional bricklayer, laid blocks of facts upon other blocks of facts in proving all his points. He used the window of opportunity offered by the event to disabuse the minds of the members of the public who have been indoctrinated with lies about the essence of the existence of the corps vis-à-vis its mandate. He equally took advantage of the event to shed light on the baseless allegations leveled against him by the nation’s leading security agency, tearing those allegations apart to the satisfaction of the panel of Distinguished Senators.
Due to time and space constraints, I will dwell briefly on a few of the sticky allegations that Akoh took his time to clarify. Apart from shedding light on the over-flogged issue of extortion of N40,000 from applicants, which he said both the Police Force Headquarters and the ICPC have thoroughly investigated in the past and given the corps a clean bill of health, Akoh also took pains to puncture the so-called 90-count nebulous charges by the police against him, which he rightly pointed out were payments to contractors for supplies made and out-of-pocket expenses etc. To underscore the genuineness of his presentations, Dr. Akoh supported same with an avalanche of documents for the senators to peruse.
On the persistent allegation of leadership crisis in the Corps, Akoh disabused the minds of the Senators and members of the public by stating categorically that there was no such thing, insisting that Nneji’s claims on the issue were simply spurious and mischievous since it was the Bill of his organization, the PCN that was passed by the NASS.
On this note, Prof. Humphrey collaborated Akoh’s position by stating unambiguously that the Bill passed was that of the PCN and not that of NUPEC. With Humphrey’s position, the controversy over the NPC Bill, engineered principally by Nneji’s rising desperation to reap where he did not plant, has finally been laid to rest. With this development, expectations are rife that the Senate will do the needful, which is to expedite action on the Bill and quickly transmit it to the presidency for assent. The erudite professor equally pleaded that the long-suffering members of his organization be absorbed into the Akoh led Peace Corps once the Bill is assented to by Mr. President.
Prof. Humphrey, who pointedly accused Nneji of hijacking NUPEC from him, also alleged that Nneji forged his signature at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to change the Board of Trustees of his organization. He equally went further to accuse Nneji of massive extortion of millions of naira from helpless Nigerians, citing a letter from the Ministry of Interior to buttress his allegation.
Reacting to the question asked by a Senator bordering on the allegation of transfer of funds from the Corps’ account to his personal account, Akoh said it was meant to offset out-of-pocket expenses during his numerous official trips abroad.
The icing on the cake of the Investigative Hearing was the ‘’Point of Order’’ raised by Akoh that since the passage of the Bill, Nneji has gone to the ridiculous extent of changing the signboards of his organization, its letter headed papers and Staff Identity Cards to read Nigerian Peace Corps, even when the Bill is yet to be passed not to talk of being assented to by the President. When Sen. Godswill Akpabio, a member of the panel asked Nneji whether the allegation was correct, Nneji, after embarking on a long winding diversionary tactics finally answered in the affirmative. This was greeted with a loud boos from the audience, including gentlemen of the press.
After series of claims and counter-claims between Prof. Humphrey and Dr. Nneji and the comprehensive expatiation by Dr. Akoh, the committee chairman, Senator Umaru, who later adjourned the meeting, asked Dr. Akoh, Prof. Humphrey and Dr. Nneji to forward to his Committee within two days written submissions on their various positions.
From what transpired at the hearing, it is evidently clear that Amb. (Dr) Dickson A. O. Akoh has taken the battle to the doorsteps of the enemies of the Corps and Nigerian youths and demystified them beyond redemption. He has proven to the whole world that he has the ability to provide a leadership which exudes a perception or better still, a palpable will to govern by adumbrating clear ideas and principles, which exemplify an ethical disposition and a willingness to pursue these ends, even against the current of moral and ethical permissiveness prevalent in the society.
The National Commandant, from all intents and purposes, is an icon of courage in a nation where that virtue is in dire shortage. Though, highly respectful of constituted authority and individuals deserving of such, Akoh is not afraid to speak the truth no matter whose ox is gored. And that is exactly what he has proven at this public hearing. He deserves a pat on the back for ultimately wrong-footing the trenchant enemies of the Corps.
– Ochela wrote in this piece from Abuja