The spontaneous condemnation that greeted the arrest and detention of the National Commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN), Ambassador (Dr) Dickson A. O. Akoh and his 47 officers has indeed proven to the whole world that the onslaught against the Corps was simply an over-reaction. At least, if Akoh or his organization has committed any offence, the security agents can invite him for questioning and as a gentleman, he will honour the invitation, which he has been doing
It would be recalled that Akoh and his officers were abducted on Tuesday, 28th February, 2017 around 11:30pm at the new Corporate Headquarters of the Corps situated opposite Jabi Lake, Abuja, after a highly successful unveiling of the new office, an event that was beamed live to the whole world by the NTA, Channels, AIT and Radio Nigeria.
In trying to justify what millions of Nigerians youths regard as calculated attempt to silence their leader, Akoh and his men were accused of committing several infractions against the laws of the land. According to an adage, lies told repeatedly, if not corrected, overtime assumes the status of truth in the minds of unsuspecting members of the public.
It is for this reason that I feel constrained to respond to some of the misconceptions woven around PCN with a view to setting the records straight. It is indeed laughable to say that the arrest of Akoh and his men was an attempt to halt and rid the country of illegal and unlawful security outfits constituting threat to national security. Nothing can be further from the truth! PCN has never claimed to be or acted as a security outfit. The pertinent question to ask the accusers of PCN is: how does a legal entity duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) constitute a security threat? If the nation’s security agencies can invest half of the overzealousness it used in pouncing on the officials of the PCN, then kidnapping, armed robbery and other related crimes threatening the foundation of Nigeria would have become history in Nigeria today.
To further add salt to injury, those who decided to play Pontius Pilate over PCN went to the ridiculous extent of saying that the Corps flag and beret have resemblance with that of Gambia and officers on UN mission respectively. In what way is resemblance in colour a crime?
In a case reminiscent of giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it, the traducers of the PCN said that intelligence reports had it that the Corps was acquiring weapons and conducting covert military training in different parts of Nigeria. The question to ask (and answer) is: was any weapon found when security operatives conducted search on the headquarters of the Corps? The answer, of course, is a resounding NO!!!
The truth is that anytime the Corps is embarking on training of its personnel, it usually invites DSS, Police and Ministry of Youth at the State level and other relevant stakeholders to its training Camps as observers and to ensure that the process complies with laid down rules. This training is usually held in either in the Federal or State Government institutions. To also say that subversive groups and terrorists have infiltrated the Corps is another cheap lie that is not worth dignifying with any response.
Similarly, the allegation of extortion of money from applicants leveled against the Corps remains just that—a mere allegation. This is an allegation that the Police and ICPC have investigated in the past and given the Corps a clean bill of health.
At this juncture, it is necessary to tell the whole world that in a report of Police investigation into the activities of the PCN dated 25th April, 2008, which was signed on behalf of the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Force Criminal Investigation Bureau by ShehuBabalola, the then Commissioner of Police in charge of Administration, the Nigeria Police Force exonerated the PCN of any form of shady deal. Part of the report reads: ‘’since its eleven years of existence (1998—2004) it has operated in twenty-six states and the FCT, the Corps as an entity has not been involved in any shady deals or any anti-social or subversive activities that constitutes any security threat.’’ What more can we say? It is on this clean record that the Corps under Dickson Akoh’s leadership has been operating till date.
It is indeed confounding that anyone could suddenly wake up to brand an organization that has been operation for the past 18years plus as an illegal entity. Happily enough, a high preponderance of Nigerians are not on the same page with the accusers of the Corps on this issue.
It is pertinent to state here that probably enamoured of the success story of the PCN, both the United Nations and African Union had granted it a Special Consultative Status under their Economic and Social Councils (ECOSOC). It is heart-rending that instead of appreciating the enormous sacrifices that Akoh had made in empowering Nigerian youths, a cardinal responsibility that successive governments have shirked, this illustrious Nigerian is being harassed, hounded and humiliated. In civilized parts of the world, the likes of Akoh are eulogized for their patriotism in giving the monster of youth unemployment a good fight.
What majority of Nigerians find irksome is that this is happening at a time a Bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Peace Corps to give the Corps statutory backing had been passed by the National Assembly and awaiting presidential assent.
It is either that the accusers of the Corps are being economical with the truth or standing honesty on its head when they averred that the Corps has no right to wear uniform. On this issue Dr. Akoh has this say: ‘’There is a National Youth Development Policy that spells outbasic requirements on how youth organizations can operate and we have 47 uniform youth organizations (in Nigeria). The Peace Corps of Nigeria, haven compiled with these basic requirement was formally accorded recognition by the Federal Government. We have been operating within our scope——–.’’
Though, the over-zealousness of the nation’s security agencies has been over-flogged in the past, it is pertinent to state here that the latest invasion of the PCN office by a large contingent of security personnel armed to the teeth is taking over-zealousness to another dangerous dimension. It is this kind of pseudo-official opposition to well-intentioned private initiatives that has rendered Nigeria prostrate, devoid of private developmental projects.
Instead of dissipating energy on anachronistic ventures like hounding officials of the PCN and trying to drive the organization aground, the nation’s security agencies should rather invest that energy on fighting all manner of criminal elements and groups that are currently holding the nation by the jogular. I rest my case!
– Ochela, a Commentator on National Issues wrote in from Abuja