Gbajabiamila meets with newspaper vendors in Abuja, to honour late Okereke on Tuesday

Gbajabiamila meets with newspaper vendors in Abuja, to honour late Okereke on Tuesday

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  • Speaker to set up foundation/trust fund for Ifeanyi Okereke’s family
  • Visits slain vendor’s family
  • November 19th to be set aside to honour the late vendor

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, earlier today, met with newspaper distributors and vendors in Abuja over the killing of one of them, Ifeanyi Okereke by one of his security operatives.

Leaders of the distributors and distributors, in their separate speeches, noted that Gbajabiamila had always identified with them on the streets of Abuja, stating that the protests by them which they embarked on, on Friday, were not against the Speaker but to seek justice for Okereke.

The Speaker said the House would upon its resumption of plenary on Tuesday honour the late Ifeanyi Okereke while also inviting the leaders of the two associations to be part of the event to be held on the floor of the House.

“Let me address you not as the Speaker but as Femi Gbajabiamila a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who has been caught unawares in the middle of this unfortunate incident,” the Speaker said.

“This is a very difficult time for me. Like many have said, you guys have been my friends for years. I have no idea and I don’t know why you guys have always taken to me over the years including campaigning for me in the streets of Abuja during the speakership election. You’ve always been there for me. As you were selling your papers, you were also selling me.

“That’s why each time I pass you guys , I stop to say hi. Some people said why did I stop in the middle of the road? But as we were moving, the lights changed to red which meant to stop. We could have moved on, but I have always instructed my convoy to be law abiding. So we stopped and my friends, as usual, besieged the vehicle, shouting and were jubilant.

“Immediately I heard the gunshot, I screamed and said why did they do that? At that time I thought it was just a shot into the air. As we moved on, I asked that they should park the car. It’s against security training as they made me realize, but I insisted and they parked. They said everything was okay. Indeed some other road users behind us did say everything was okay. We moved on. It was later that night that I got the full gist of what had happened. I want to commiserate with you over what happened.”

The Speaker had earlier on Saturday visited the family of the slain newspaper vendor at Okereke’s family home in Kwata village in the Madalla/Suleja area of Niger State.

“Those children have now become my children. I have made commitments to the family to train them until they become adults. I have instructed the lawyers in my office to immediately set up a trust fund for them until adulthood. The incident has touched me in no small measure and in ways difficult for anyone to understand. I am a man of peace and not violence,” he said.

The Speaker said he had cancelled all his engagements to mourn Okereke.
“Because I’m indeed mourning, and I can’t be mourning and be celebrating or attending joyous occasions or functions at the same time. We all talked about justice, and I assure you we will follow due process. Justice, in whatever form it is, will prevail. That’s what we can do for now.

“I feel your pain. Your pain is my pain. My pain pales into insignificance when compared to what you or the family may be feeling at this time. May his soul rest in peace. May God grant him eternal rest. May the death of Ifeanyi be the beginning of good things for the vendors. I have heard your requests, and I assure you that those requests would be handled. Ifeanyi’s death won’t be in vain. May a lot of good come out of this unfortunate incident.

“I thank you for your very kind and generous words regarding my person. I thank you for receiving us. It’s unfortunate that we’re meeting under this circumstance, but I assure you that this won’t be the last.”

He suggested that November 19, which was the date of Ifeanyi’s death, be set aside every year to celebrate vendors.

Speaking, the President of ANDA, Benji Obute, commended the Speaker for his humility and thanked him for showing uncommon concern over the incident.
“I want to use this forum to appreciate Mr Speaker for the uncommon love he displayed to the newspaper vendors. We have stated our request, part of which is the scholarship, compensation and the welfare of the family.

“We want our late brother and colleague to be immortalized. We’ll give you the architectural design of a tent to be built here and named after him. We want a follow up of the prosecution. What we want is justice to be done.

“The vendors are traumatized and cannot do their business at the Federal Secretariat again. Whatever kind gesture that you can extend to them will be appreciated. We exonerate you, we are not blaming you for what happened. We blame the security man that did the shooting.”

The shooting incident, which occurred at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, around 3 pm on Thursday, had caused panic in the area. Ifeanyi Okereke was taken to the National Hospital by his brother and some police officers, where he eventually died.