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Gbajabiamila Promises Scholarship, Foundation for Children of Slain Vendor
*House to honour deceased at plenary tomorrow
Kingsley Nwezeh and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has offered scholarship up to university level to the children of the slain vendor, the late Mr. Ifeanyi Okereke.
He said the House, would also at plenary Tuesday (tomorrow) honour the deceased by sitting for half-day.
The vendor was shot dead by an operative of the Department of State Services (DSS), Abdullahi M. Hassan, when some vendors approached the speaker’s convoy to greet him.
The shooting triggered protests by the vendors’ association, who called for justice.
Gbajabiamila, yesterday met with members of the Abuja Newspapers Distributors Association (ANDA) and the Newspapers Vendors Association, Abuja (NVAA) to condole with them over the death of their colleague, Okereke.
Gbajabiamila, who visited the Abuja newspapers distribution centre at Area 1, said Ifeanyi would get justice.
He also said that after a visit to the family of the late Ifeanyi at the Kwata area of Madalla-Suleja on Saturday, where he met with his wife and children, he directed his lawyers to immediately set up a trust fund for them until adulthood.
The Speaker said the House would upon its resumption of plenary on Tuesday honour the late Ifeanyi and invited the leaders of the two associations to be part of the event to be held on the floor of the House.
He said, ‘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. Many of you that have been following me from the beginning know that championing the cause of the masses has been my life work as a legislator. I have been a champion of the common man and therefore the irony of this is not lost on me and many of us. However, I will continue to do this as long as I live.
“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.
Recalling the incident, he said after he had made inquiries about the gunshot, he was initially misinformed but later received the accurate account of the incident.
“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 realise, 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.”
“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. Also, I have cancelled all my engagements, because I’m indeed mourning, and I can’t be mourning and be celebrating or attending joyous occasions or functions at the same time.’’
In his remarks, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, thanked the union for refusing to allow the situation to be hijacked by hoodlums.
He said the conduct of the vendors had changed the image of vendors by their quality leadership and members.
He suggested that November 19 every year be remembered as “Vendors’ Day” and be celebrated with lectures and symposia.
The Chairman of the group, Mr. Benjamin Obute, commended the humility displayed by the speaker, the first occupant of such a position to visit the Newspaper Distribution Centre in Area One in Garki District of Abuja.
He said the speaker, who spent three hours in traffic on his way to Suleja on Saturday to see the family of the deceased, had met most demands made by the vendors.