The Nigerian Peace Corps, NPC, has alleged that some highly placed individuals were behind the recent attacks on its Abuja secretariat by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, and the Nigerian Police Force.
NPC claimed that the move was aimed at scuttling the "much-awaited Presidential Assent to the Bill of the Corps which has been passed by the National Assembly."
In a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Patriot Millicent Umoru, the Corps maintained that the 90-count-charge police levelled against it were rehash of its official transaction.
The statement said contrary to reports, the charges were filed against the Corps by the Police and not the Federal Government.
The statement titled, "FG Files 90-Count Charges against Peace Corps," reads, "Our attention has been drawn to the above quoted publication in some national dailies and we are constrained to state categorically that the so-called 90-count charges are a rehash of the official transactions of the Corps lifted from the bank statements of the organization since it commenced operation.
"It is interesting to note that a week before the invasion of the Peace Corps office by the security operatives, reliable sources revealed how the plot to invade and arrest the officials of the organization was hatched by some highly-placed individuals, who are desperately trying to scuttle the much-awaited Presidential Assent to the Bill of the Corps, which has been passed by the National Assembly.
"In the aforementioned charges, which were filed by the Police and not the Federal Government as erroneously portrayed in the media, the Police said that since the Corps is not a political party, it is criminal on its part to fly its flag at its office premises. This charge is quite unfortunate in the sense that it is happening in a country where several similar organizations hoist flags at their official premises.
"We also wish to place it on record that 87 of the charges had to do with the official monetary transactions of the Corps since 2002, including payments to contractors for official supplies of office furniture, uniform kits etc, which the National Commandant of the Corps, Dr. Dickson Akoh, officially acknowledged in his statement before the Police at the Force Headquarters.
"It is also of pivotal importance to stress here that in addition to current landmark pronouncement of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, 16 March, 2017, which is clearly in favour of the Peace Corps of Nigeria, other eleven (11) judgments had been previously given in our favour against security agencies that have been harassing and intimidating the Corps.
"It is quite gladdening to note that in his pronouncement on the matter, which was adjourned to March 28, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, excoriated the Police for its intransigency and anti-democratic attitude in failing to honour previous court rulings that barred them from harassing the Corps. The Judge also gave the Police five (5) days within which to provide explanation on the security report, which they used as an alibi to invade the office of the Peace Corps. What makes this latest invasion quite interesting is that when a search was conducted on our office premises by the security operatives, nothing incriminating was found."
The statement maintained that the N1.4bn fraud levelled against the Corps was generated from its members across the country.
"It is necessary to explain here that the said amount is the total sum of money paid by new members that is in our account at United Bank for Africa (UBA). That payment is enshrined in the Constitution of our organization and it has been using it to procure uniform and kits for Cadets; for office accommodation; refund of out-of-pocket expenses and payments to contractors for supplies of various items used in running the office since 2002, and there are official receipts to support this claim. So, there is nothing criminal about it. "
On the allegation that the organisation had been operating a quasi-military training for its personnel, the statement said, " It is not far off the mark. Since it came into existence, the Corps has never claimed to be or acted like a military organization as its officers do not bear arms; have power of arrest, investigation or prosecution.
"A lot of controversy has also been raised about its officers wearing uniforms with ranks. Isn't it ironical that in a nation where similar youth organizations wear uniforms with epaulettes, a well-structured organization like the Peace Corps of Nigeria is been singled out for crucifixion for doing the same?
"Even the training that the accusers of the Corps keep hammering on is not a secret thing. It is simply an orientation programme where its personnel are taught Discipline, National Ethics/Values and other rudiments associated with the core mandates of the Corps, especially in the areas of Citizenship and Leadership training, Patriotism and Nation-Building. Even its counterparts in other parts of the world undergo similar trainings. So, why the unnecessary hullabaloo about the orientation/training programme of the Corps?
"Similarly, equating the Orientation/Training programme of the Corps to quasi-military training is tantamount to giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. The question to ask (and answer) is: does the Corps use arms or weapons during the trainings of its personnel, which are usually observed by the Police, DSS, Officials and traditional rulers of the Local Government Areas where the Camps are located?
"The answer of course is NO!!! How come the training of Peace Corps of Nigeria is now regarded as a criminal offence? The truth is that if there was any iota of criminality in its activities, the United Nations and African Union would not have bothered to grant the Corps Special Consultative Status under their Economic and Social Councils (ECOSOC). Again, if the allegations of its critics were true, the members of the National Assembly would not have wasted its precious time debating and passing the Bill to give it statutory backing.
"The Peace Corps of Nigeria as a law-abiding organization and as a strong partner in the Nigerian project, does not believe in unnecessary confrontation with any agency of government. In the light of this reality, our decision to go to court to seek legal redress was predicated on the need to stop further harassment of our personnel and clampdown on our offices. However, we are ready to withdraw the suit from the Court in preference for a round-the-table negotiation, if there is a concrete assurance on the part of the security agencies to stop further harassment and intimidation of our organization."