Wanted: Marshall Plan for Nigerian Vendors
By John Eche
The recent shooting incident involving newspaper vendors in Abuja and where the vendor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okereke, was killed when security details attached to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila reportedly shot into the air has brought to the fore once again the plight of members of that trade segment.
The incident, which took place on Thursday while the Speaker was in a motorcade in the nation’s capital has since attracted all kinds of reactions.
While the Speaker has expressed his regret over the incident and revealed that the offending suspect has since been turned in for further investigations, vendors in Abuja took to the streets, Friday to express their displeasure over the incident.
Coming in the wake of the recent #EndSARS protests which had itself been fuelled by years of anger over the spate of police abuse and brutality in Nigeria, the current incident is being seen by many as one more revelation that confirms the imperative of wholesome police and security services reform in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.
For the vendors in particular, dying in the line of duty has come to be an added challenge. With Nigeria’s newspaper readership numbers having sharply plummeted in recent years, many vendors have been having challenges finding products to trade or customers to patronise them. Newspaper houses that used to publish between 5000 and 80, 000 copies have lately only been able to produce between 2000 and 20, 000.
While part of the challenge has to do with reduced purchasing power and literacy levels, there is also the question of new technologies, with many readers now opting to catch up their news and media needs online or via radio and television.
Indeed, under the situation, many vendors have either quit the trade or added other supplementary sources to make ends meet. However, with very little savings stock to fall upon, it is really a tough dreary time for many practitioners, necessitating calls for the relevant authorities to consider a ‘Marshall Plan’ of sorts that would include schemes like retraining and new careers counselling.
Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu