THE Police have explained why Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) National Commandant Dickson Akoh and 49 others were arrested.
Members of the Corps were arrested in Abuja on Tuesday at their head office by personnel of the police, military and Department of State Services (DSS).
According to the police, those arrested are operating an illegal security outfit.
The police said the arrest was an attempt to halt and rid the country of illegal and unlawful security outfits constituting threat to national security.
Flag of the Corp, the police added, “is in semblance with the flag of Gambia”, adding that its beret was for officers on United Nations (UN) Missions.
Recruitment forms were part of documents confiscated during the operation.
Briefing reporters in Abuja yesterday at a joint news conference and parade of arrested PCN members, the Force Spokesperson, CSP Jimoh Moshood, said intelligence report showed that the corps has started acquiring weapons and conducting convert military training in different locations across the country.
Moshood said: “It is evident that in 2013, Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette dissolved and proscribed illegal security outfits such as Nigerian Maritime Security Agency (NMSA), Nigerian Merchant Navy Corps and the Nigerian Merchant Navy Petroleum Security and Safety, Peace Corps of Nigeria and other quasi-illegal security outfits”
The police said it observed that some of the outfits were still operating outside their mandates and purposes, which they were registered by the CAC.
He added: “The PCN under the leadership of Akoh was registered as an NGO. But with brazen impunity and total disregard to the laws of Nigeria, it opened illegal training camps in some states of the country, where thousands of youths and other persons without proper background checks and screening are receiving converts military training.
“It is consequent upon veracity of intelligence reports from reliable sources, indicating that subversive groups and terrorists affiliates have infiltrated the Peace Corp secretly to ruin and destroy the existing peace being enjoyed in the country that the PCN secret training camps were closed down in Abuja. Kwara and Niger states.”
He added that investigation revealed that personnel of the Corp “are extorting money from unwary youths”.
“Under the guise of recruitment, amounts ranging from N50,000 to hundreds of thousands are being paid by innocent Nigerians to the Corp. Once you pay the money, you are automatically recruited,” Moshood alleged.
The police asked those who paid money under any pretence to the Corp to report their case at the nearest police station across the country.
“The corps has unlawfully turned itself into a security outfit without authorisation and establishment by the Federal Government. As such, it has deviated from the purposes for which it was registered as an NGO by the CAC.
“The Corp has no legal right to wear uniform, parade itself as security outfit, post their personnel on guard duties, and use ranks, insignia, badges of rank, which are semblance of that of the police, military and other paramilitary organisations without the approval of the Federal Government,” he added.
The police revealed that halting of illegal security outfits would be carry out across the country.
The police, however, urged parents to prevail on their wards to return home from illegal military camps opened in some states.
On whether the police was not questioning the authority of the National Assembly, he said: “We are not in contrast with any authority. What we know is that security outfits are established and approved by the Federal Government and in this case, that has not being done.”
But Akoh explained that the money collected was for the kits for the Corp members.
He said: “It is shameful that we have teething security challenges and you are showing our uniform as exhibit. The constitution of the Corp approved by CAC was properly vetted by the security before we were registered in 1998.
“There is national youth development policy that spells out youth organisation to operate and we have over 47 uniform youth organisations.
“We have been operating within our scope and we are out to re-orientate the youth. No matter the character of youths, when they are taught national ethics and discipline, they change. The youths need a platform to change and that is what we do.
“The money paid is for their uniform, kits and accommodation because we pay for the venue. It is voluntary and not compulsory. We have ICPC’s clearance for that money. EFCC is investigating this matter and they discovered that we never forced anybody.”
He accused the police of instigating youths against the corps.
According to a source, six officers of the PCN were injured, with three unconscious at the National Hospital, Abuja, after operatives of the police and DSS agents raided the corps’ National Headquarters.
The headquarters, which was officially inaugurated on Tuesday, was still cordoned off by security operatives as at last night.