The Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Barr. Solomon Dalung, has expressed strong support for the establishment of Nigerian Peace Corps.
Dalung said, when signed into law, the Peace Corps would reduce criminality, as its core mandate was to engage the youths who were currently roaming the streets.
The minister, who formally received the copy of the harmonised version of the bill passed by National Assembly in his office, also expressed hope that the Presidency would give consideration to the bill.
“For me as a minister of youth, I have a lot of young people on the street which every day I lose my sleep over what we should do for them.
“So 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.
“If we do not invest in the youths today, we are investing in criminals tomorrow.
“ If we fail to invest in youths today, we lack the moral ground to complain against criminality tomorrow”, the minister said.
Dalung also reacted to the recent clampdown on the corps by the Nigerian Police, saying 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 members dress even in the manner that is similar to the military, they are involved in training that are regimental training, they have been operating and making great contributions to peace and security in Nigeria.
“We have the Red Cross, we have the Boys Brigade, we have the Girls Brigade; we have so many of such organisations that are affiliated to the ministry.
“The Primary responsibilities and intentions of these organisations are to create and accommodate the teeming youth population of this very great nation of ours.
“I must start by commending those organisations, because if they had not created those spaces, we could not have imagined what could have become of our young people,’’ he said.
Dalung admonished the officers of the corps to forgive those who stood in opposition of their bill, put the past behind them and work towards delivering on the core mandate of the organisation.
The Minister, however, advised Nigerians and other agencies, to henceforth, gauge the conduct of Peace Corps officers with the abridged version of the Bill recently adopted by both chambers of the National Assembly.
On his part, the National Commandant of the Corps, Dr. Dickson Akoh, said the visit of the officers to the minister was necessary.
He said the visit offered the opportunity to brainstorm on the abridged version of the Bill and seek his support for the executive assent, since the Corps would be domiciled under his ministry, when established.
Akoh told the minister about his arrest and 49 others by the security agencies early this year, stressing that the harassment was not unconnected to the passage of the Bill at the National Assembly.
He insisted that the organisation had not breached any law that would warrant the incessant humiliations from the security agencies, including the 90-count charge instituted against them by the Nigeria Police.