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Newspaper Vendors Protest Killing Of Colleague By Speaker’s Aide

Newspaper vendors in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, are currently on a protest against the killing of their colleague by a police detail attached to Femi Gbajabiamila, Nigeria’s  Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

The vendors with placards bearing different inscriptions were seen singing, “All we are saying, give us justice”, marching in a protest from Area 1 where they usually assemble to share and distribute newspapers every morning. 

They were taking their protest to the National Assembly complex. 

Ifeanyi Elechi, a newspaper vendor was shot dead on Thursday by one of Gbajabiamila’s security aide.

Okereke was moved to the National Hospital by his brother and some police officers, where he reportedly died.

The incident happened on the Shehu Shagari Way, Three Arms Zone in the heart of Abuja, as the Speaker’s convoy made its way after he stopped to exchange pleasantries with vendors. 

According to a statement shared through the Speaker’s official Twitter account, unknown men allegedly blocked the road after his exchange of pleasantries with the vendors who he claimed he had known for long. 

“A horrible incident has taken place. This evening as I left the national assembly, I stopped, as usual, to exchange pleasantries with the newspaper vendors at the corner. Many of them have known me since I first moved to Abuja and it was a friendly exchange,” Gbajabiamila wrote.

The Speaker added that the security men in his convoy shot into the air to disperse a group obstructing the movement of his convoy. 

“Unfortunately, after the convoy set out in continuation of movement, unidentified men obstructed the convoy which got the attention of security men in the convoy who shot into the air to disperse them,” he wrote on Twitter.

“In the meantime; the officer who fired the fatal shot has been suspended from the convoy pending the conclusion of the investigation.”

“I have caused a report to be made to the local police station and an investigation has commenced.

Etim Eteng, the Chairman of the Newspapers Vendors Association in FCT, told The PUNCH that Okereke died at the National Hospital shortly after the incident, adding that his wife gave birth to a baby on Thursday morning.

“The speaker called to give vendors money and the security aide just shot him (Okereke) in the head. He was rushed to the National Hospital where he died some hours later,” he said on the telephone.

Thursday evening, Newspapers Distributors Association ( ANDA ) said its members would stage a protest at the National Assembly Friday morning. 

The protest, it said would also see the vendors submitting a petition at the Police headquarters to demand justice for the victim.

Benji Obute, President of Abuja Newspaper Distributor Association disclosed this in a statement.

It urged all its members to converge at Area 1 on Friday morning adding that newspapers would not be shared until after the protest.

The union appealed to media houses to cooperate with them to ensure that no paper is leaked out adding that any organisation that violated the directive would be sanctioned. 

Nigerians have however condemned the killing of the vendor. 

Cheta Nwanze, a Lead Partner at SBM Intelligence in a  tweet raised concerns about the use of live rounds to disperse people and similarities between the incident and the Lekki shooting at #EndSARS protesters one month ago. 

“Let us, for a brief moment, agree with @femigbaja that his aides shot in the air to disperse people” First, using live bullets for crowd control (relate that to #LekkiMassacre).”

“More importantly, has anyone been arrested at least for the manslaughter of Ifeanyi Okereke?”

Kadaria Ahmed, a popular broadcaster in a tweet stated that there was no justification for using lethal force to keep citizens away from those who elect them. 

“I believe @femigbaja is appalled but that’s not enough. The shooter must be prosecuted. #Ifeanyi and his family deserve justice,” Ahmed said.


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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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