Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has offered a scholarship to the children of the late Ifeanyi Okereke, a newspaper vendor who was killed by one of his security aides.
The Speaker and his entourage were passing along a road in the Federal Capital Territory when one of his security members, Abdullahi Hassan, fired into the air to disperse some of the vendors who approached the speaker to greet him. The bullet hit Ifeanyi, who died of gunshot wounds.
Gbajabiamila over the weekend made a visit of condolence to the family of the deceased, where he met the wife who is breastfeeding a baby they just received.
The speaker on Sunday 22 November met with members of the Abuja Newspaper Distributors Association (ANDA) and the Newspaper Sellers Association, Abuja (NVAA) to express their condolences on the death of his colleague, Okereke. Gbajabiamila said that after a visit to the late Ifeanyi’s family in the Kwata area of Madalla-Suleja on Saturday, where he met his wife and children, he ordered his lawyers to immediately set up a trust fund for them until age adult.
Let me address you not as Spokesperson, but as Femi Gbajabiamila, a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who has been caught off guard in the midst of this regrettable incident. Many of you who have been following me from the beginning know that defending the cause of the masses has been my life’s work as a legislator. I have been an advocate for the common man, and therefore the irony of this does not escape me or many of us. However, I will continue to do so as long as I live.
“This is a very difficult time for me. As many have said, you have been my friends for years. I have no idea and I don’t know why you have always accepted me over the years, including campaigning for me on the streets of Abuja during the speaker elections. You have always been there for me. As you sold your papers, you also sold me.
“That’s why every time I pass them, I stop to say hello. Some people said why did I stop in the middle of the road? But as we proceeded, the lights changed to red, which meant stopping. We could have moved on, but I have always instructed my convoy to abide by the law. Then we stopped and my friends, as always, besieged the vehicle, screaming and full of joy.
Recalling the incident, he said that after asking questions about the shooting, he was initially misinformed, but later received the accurate account of the incident.
“I immediately heard the shot, screamed and said why did they do that? At the time I thought it was just a shot in the air. As we went along, I asked them to park the car. It is against safety training as they made me realize, but I insisted and they parked. They said everything was fine. In fact, other road users behind us said everything was fine. We move on. It was later that night that I got the full gist of what had happened. I want to feel sorry for you for what happened. “
“Those children have now become my children. I have committed myself to the family to train them until they are adults. I have instructed the attorneys in my office to immediately establish a trust fund for them until adulthood.
The incident has touched me greatly and in ways difficult for anyone to understand. I am a man of peace and not of violence. Also, I have canceled all my engagements, because I am actually in mourning, and I cannot mourn and be celebrating or attending joyous occasions or functions at the same time, ” he said.
In his comments, the Chairman of the House Publicity and Media Committee, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, thanked the union for refusing to allow the situation to be hijacked by thugs.
He said that the conduct of the suppliers had changed the image of the suppliers because of their quality leadership and membership.
He suggested that November 19 of each year be remembered as “Sellers Day” and celebrated with conferences and symposia.
The group chairman, Mr. Benjamin Obute, praised the humility shown by the speaker, the first occupant of such a position to visit the Newspaper Distribution Center in Area One in the Garki district of Abuja.
He said the speaker, who spent three hours in traffic on the way to Suleja on Saturday to see the family of the deceased, had met most of the vendors’ demands.