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Hard Times: Abuja Civil Servants Turn Eagle’s Square Car Park To Mini Market




The time was about 8am that cloudy Friday. Civil servants had started arriving at the Federal Secretariat Complex, Central Business Area, Abuja, the nation’s capital.

With the shortage of parking space at the huge complex to serve the increasing number of persons who work in the secretariat, some parked along the road, hoping that officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps would not tow their vehicles for wrong parking. Others, however, drove into the parking lot of the popular Eagle’s Square.

Almost equidistant from government establishments like the National Assembly, the Office of the Head of the Federal Civil Service, the Federal High Court and the State House, the Eagle’s Square may rightly be referred to as a major symbol of democracy, as it hosts major events.

From playing host to the inauguration of elected presidents to political rallies, concerts and Democracy Day celebrations, the arena is evidently a place of interest. So also is its parking lot, which can accommodate no less than 300 vehicles at a time. This turns it into a makeshift market the moment civil servants begin to arrive.

On both entrances to the parking lot there are a number of hawkers selling things like groundnuts, snacks and other items. Also noticeable are newspaper and book stands, printing shops and PoS stands.

As our correspondent soon found out, the real buying and selling take place inside the parking lot, in which car boots become storefronts for products ranging from herbal remedies and tea to clothes, shoes and handbags. Our correspondent counted no fewer than 10 vehicles converted to shops, with salespersons attached to them.

While the businessmen and women said they understood the optics of converting their vehicles to stores, they insisted that the situation of the economy drove them to find alternative sources of income.

For them, the cost of finding proper stalls to set up their businesses and services is more expensive than selling out of the boots of their vehicles.

A salesman for electrical appliances, Ogbu Godwin, who started the business  seven years ago, said it was his only source of income and livelihood, adding that although the business started small, he had had to diversify to survive.

“I am not a civil servant; this is the only business I do to survive. Usually, in a day before, we make like N3,500. Then we were only selling phone chargers, power banks and stuff like that. Now, we make as much as N10,000 from the sales of extensions, repairing phones, and selling chargers and power banks. If I had a store, half of that would probably go into settling dues, and I cannot afford that,” he added.

A civil servant, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said although she had been in service for over two decades, her jewellery and clothing business had “always been to make ends meet”.

She added that although her five children were old enough to fend for themselves, she engaged in the business to stay active.

She said, “The business has always been to make ends meet. Whichever way you look at it, the economy is biting hard. It is not as if we are making any gains; we are just doing it to stay active because we are growing old.

“We hardly make sales unless in the first week when they pay workers’ salaries. And then we don’t come during the weekends or public holidays. If not for the POS service that we added, sometimes we may not make sales for a whole week. And even that POS, our only gain is from the charges. The volume of business has reduced drastically.  The only thing making money for me for now is my cold room, but the weather effects that too because when the rain falls, nobody sees a need to buy anything that is cold.”

Speaking on the legality of her business, she added, “The good thing about this is I don’t have to pay any taxes because I can’t imagine paying taxes from my government job and doing the same for this business. I pay my salesperson N500 per day, just so she also has enough to survive. The unfortunate reality is nothing is coming into the business. So, I pay her from my pocket. I pay the person overseeing my cold room N250 per day, depending on how he sells; so these are the issues.

“Everyone selling in this place is struggling; it’s not easy for anybody. We are all just trying to survive. Nobody is making a profit; nobody is having a field day in the business. We’re all just trying to survive at this time. At least I do this alongside my job, for some people this is their only source of income and they can hardly make ends meet”.

Another saleswoman, who identified herself only as Bose, sold herbal tea, coffee, perfume oils and skincare products out of the boot of her car.

She said although she was not a civil servant, she struggled to make sales on a daily basis.

According to her, the cost of setting up a business in the nation’s capital made her decide to use the boot of her car as her store.

“I am not a civil servant but I come here every day to sell my products. After all, we must survive this economy one way or another. You can’t blame us for selling in this manner. The cost of a full business setup is not something that is easily affordable. You know it’s Abuja; before we pay rent, fix the shop, and pay dues, where is the rest of the money to stock up and sell? Let’s not even talk about other costs: electricity, transportation, repairing damage, paying salesperson, and so forth. Overall, this is the cheaper option,” she added.

Asked about the risk of being picked up by the authorities of the FCT for violating any state codes against illegal marketplaces, Bose replied, “What are they going to do? ‘Demolish’ my vehicle the way they demolish illegal structures? This is a public place. Don’t I have rights?”

Mallam Ibrahim, who sold men’s clothing materials, also stated that the nation’s capital did not encourage the ease of doing business as everything was always too expensive and unaffordable.

“Just this week, I have spent over N20,000 on fuel. That is to transport to a business that is hardly putting anything back into my pocket. And then to set it up in an official store is even worse; it’s a cost I cannot even afford to think about. So, this is easier for me,” he said.

Meanwhile, efforts to reach the Director of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Osilamah Braimah, for comments on the legality of using the place as sale hubs proved abortive as there was no response to calls put across to his office.


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China Reaffirms Commitment To Nigeria, Renovates Ogun School



The Chinese Consul-General, Lagos, Yan Yuqing, has reiterated the commitment of the People’s Republic of China towards assisting Nigerian government to develop its education sector.

The Chinese Consul-General disclosed this during the commissioning of renovated China-Nigeria Friendship Model Primary School, Igbesa in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State.

Yuqing said China is quite convinced that education is the foundation of national development and a weapon to fight poverty.

He said China is always willing to partner with her host country to make meaningful investment in the critical sector

The projects sponsored by the Chinese Consulate and Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone included a block of classrooms, cafeteria, as well as donation of educational materials to the pupils of the school.

Yuqing said, “Chinese admire that education is the foundation of national development in the long run and strong weapon to fight poverty. All modern countries in the world do not fail to attach importance to education. As the largest developing country in the world, China has made remarkable achievements in all aspects of social development.

“These achievements are inseparable from our unswerving implementation of the strategy of invigorating China through science and education. And we always place education in a strategic position of priority development. We will continue to support Nigeria’s education system in all areas”.

She added, “Eleven years ago, the construction of this school began. Since then, this school has become a bridge of friendship and understanding between Nigeria and China and it has witnessed sincere friendship from China.

“Today, you can see here, the classrooms are more spacious, the campus is more beautiful, and the facilities are more complete. I hope that all the children will study harder in these improved classrooms and strive towards achieving their goals as soon as possible”.

While advising the pupils, the Consul-General said, “Children education is related to the future of a country; now you are the future of Nigeria. Work hard and fight for a better tomorrow for the prosperity of Nigeria.”

The Deputy-General, China-Africa Investment, Kevin Liu, said the China-Nigeria Model School stands for knowledge, cultural exchange, and mutual understanding, saying, “These values promote global peace and cooperation and we are committed to maintaining this standard for generations to come”.

Governor Dapo Abiodun, who was represented by a Commissioner-designate,Mr. Sesan Fagbayi, disclosed that the project would no doubt further foster smooth bilateral relationship with the Chinese government.

Abiodun has however appealed to the residents of Igbesa to continue to cooperate with the Chinese investors for peace and friendly environment in order for their businesses to thrive.

The Oloja-Ekun of Igbesaland, Oba Oluwatoyin Akinde, represented by Otunba Ade Durojaiye, lauded the Chinese Consulate and Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone for the project pleading for more support in developing the town.

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Fresh Strike Looms As NLC’s Ultimatum Expires Today



AS the ultimatum by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, to the Federal Government to address the mass suffering and pains occasioned by the removal of subsidy on petrol expires today, the leadership of the Congress will meet next week to decide when to begin an indefinite nationwide strike.

But Vanguard gathered that the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, has been meeting with some members of the government team on how to avert the strike.

It was also gathered that the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, alongside the Vice President, are putting together a package, including wage awards, to be presented to the NLC leadership.

It will be recalled that NLC had between Tuesday, September 5 and Wednesday 6 embarked on a two-day nationwide warning strike to protest, among others, perceived government insensitivity to plights and sufferings of Nigerians, especially workers, following the subsidy removal.

Ahead of the warning strike, the National Executive Council, NEC, of NLC had issued within 14 working days or 21 days from September 1, 2023, an ultimatum for the government to address the excruciating mass suffering and the impoverishment experienced around the country, threatening an indefinite strike if government failed to address its demands.

As the 21-day ultimatum expires today, Vanguard learned that critical organs of NLC will be meeting next week to decide on the indefinite strike and modalities if nothing concrete was done to lessen the suffering and hardship of Nigerians.

A source said: “The issue is conventional, when an ultimatum expires, you call your organs and the organs will decide when to commence the strike. If we ever decide to say we would take one day or few days or one week to prepare for it, that would be their position.”

Pressed to be more categorical on whether the strike would commence immediately, one of the sources privy to the NLC meetings simply said “Nothing is impossible.”

‘Meeting to hold on a date for the strike to begin’

Another source told Vanguard that the “last NEC held on September 1, 2023, has actually given the leadership of NLC, especially members of the National Administrative Council, NAC, the go-ahead to meet, fix a date for the commencement of the indefinite strike and communicate to the state councils and industrial union affiliates.

“I can tell you that the leadership will meet next week and fix a date for the strike. However, if NAC members are convinced that the government has addressed our demands to an appreciable level, in such a case, the leadership will still call the organs to brief them of the development.”

‘Govt team working to avert strike’

The source, however, said available information revealed that the government team is working seriously to avert another round of industrial unrest by NLC.

He said further that both the minister of finance, and the vice president, who is standing in for the President who is attending the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, Summit in New York were considering some figures.

“So they know the seriousness of the planned action and some of them are speaking out boldly that they are not afraid because of the package they have for workers.

“Available information is that the government will soon announce what it has. They are really making efforts and again the President is not in the country.

“What we don’t know is whether what they have will be enough for NLC to consider or not. In the past two to three days, the vice president has been meeting with some of the government team to come up with something. “

The source made it clear that the NLC leadership had said it would not be part of any meeting if there were no tangible packages for workers.

Attempt to get a reaction from the Presidency did not yield any results as the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Ajuri Ngelale, is out of the country.

The presidential spokesman is with the President in New York for the UNGA summit.

Recall that while briefing last Friday, after its NEC’s meeting, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said: “NEC-in-session of NLC resolved to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from today until steps are taken by the government to address the excruciating mass suffering and the impoverishment experienced around the country.

“To commence a two-day warning strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, 5th and 6th September 2023 to demonstrate our readiness for the indefinite strike later in the month and to also demand that the state vacates the illegally occupied national headquarters of the National Union of Road Transport Workers. “

The NLC also resolved to embark on a mass protest and rally in Imo State within September, and equally raised the alarm over what it described as a renewed onslaught by the government and its agents on labour unions.

Ajaero explained that the proposed strike was necessitated by the government’s deliberate neglect and disregard to engage the relevant stakeholders through the channel of social dialogue.

He said the Federal Government had refused to engage and reach an agreement with organized labour on critical issues on the consequences of the unfortunate hike in prices of petrol which had unleashed massive suffering on Nigerian workers and masses.

Ajaero said: “There is a renewed onslaught against trade unions and its leadership by the state and its agents across Nigeria.

‘’The Police, under the instruction of certain forces peddling the name of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, invaded and occupied illegally the national headquarters of the National Union of Road Transport Workers headquarters seeking to install its own executive.”


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Kogi Declares Free Education In Primary, Secondary Schools; Commences Distribution Of Palliative



The Kogi government on Thursday declared free education for indigenes at primary and secondary school levels.

Governor Yahaya Bello made the declaration in Lokoja when he inaugurated the distribution of the federal government’s palliatives to cushion the effects of subsidy removal.

“My administration has now declared free education from primary to secondary school in the state and will cover examination fees for WAEC, NECO, and JAMB for all indigenes of Kogi,” he declared.

Mr Bello, who commended the federal government’s efforts to mitigate the impact of fuel subsidy removal on citizens, said the palliatives, which were valued well in excess of N2 billion,  would reach intended beneficiaries regardless of political, religious, or ethnic affiliations.

He extended his gratitude to President Bola Tinubu for the idea.

“Already, all the local government areas of the state have commenced the distribution of rice and other essential items.

“Therefore, this launch is essentially an extension of our ongoing efforts to cushion the impact of the current policy on our citizens.

“We are not only distributing rice but also making cash available to reach the people. The total value of what we are launching for distribution today exceeds N2 billion, and it is intended to reach every household in Kogi,” he stated.

He emphasised that those responsible for the distribution must not discriminate, warning that any report of bias or favoritism, or hoarding would be dealt with accordingly.

The governor, who called on security agencies to ensure a peaceful and smooth distribution process, assured the people that more initiatives to alleviate hardship were in place.

He commended the state’s people for their support for Mr Tinubu’s administration and the New Direction administration in Kogi, which had prioritised the welfare of residents.

While mentioning the various infrastructure developments that had taken place across the state, Mr Bello expressed confidence that the governorship candidate of the APC, Usman Ododo, when elected as his successor, would continue to build on the current achievements. 


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