OYO NEWSPAPER DISTRIBUTORS, VENDORS GROAN UNDER DEBTS

By NBF News
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There are some vocations people tend to look down upon as undignified low income-yielding and unrewarding, but which, unknown to many a superficial eye, are very  lucrative. Newspaper vending is one of such.

Yes, those patronising youths and sometimes elderly people you see weave dangerously through busy traffic or man newsstand for your N150 everyday can comfortably claim some riches, even if they cannot be said to be the richest in the society.

But there is a bitter song on the lips of these traders now. They long for the good old days. Business is not as good as before, they say. No thanks to perceived decline in newspaper readership.

With its immense possibilities and advantages, the internet has robbed newspapers distributors and vendors of patronage, as many readers simply go on the web to read the electronic version of their products, to the neglect of the hardcopies.

Worse still, sales have dropped sharply, as only few individuals and corporate bodies are able to buy newspapers, due to the dire economic situation in the country. At most newsstands in major cities and towns across the country  a group of people known as the 'Free Readers Association of Nigeria', who, for between 10 to 20 per cent of the newspaper prices have a full fill of the contents of the numerous publications.

But now, the vendors are up against a new serious challenge. Recovering accumulating debts owed them by mostly institutional and corporate clients, to whom they were forced to supply on credit to keep-up the business. Lamenting their plight, a former  chairman of the state chapter of the Newspapers Distributors Association (NDAN), Mr.  Samuel  Ajileye, said many organisations, including government offices, local governments, educational institutions, federal and state parastatals  and companies were owing his association's members millions of naira, regretting that this was killing their business.

On his part alone, he claimed that a broadcasting house within Ibadan, the state capital, was indebted to him to the tune of about half a million naira, being debt incurred between last quarter of 2010 and March this year. Similarly, he said a tertiary health institution in the state owed over N300, 000 as at March this year.  'Unfortunately, you cannot stop supplying them because of their default. If you try it, they will not pay you the outstanding debts,' he explained.

Chief Kehinde Babalola, blamed the development on the change of government in the state. According to him, the new state governor's order, freezing government accounts both at the state and local government levels has resulted in a cash squeeze, which has affected the ability of most government agencies to pay. To worsen the case, Babalola told Daily Sun: 'The governor is yet to appoint caretakers committees to run the local government after he sent the old ones packing. So,  we just parade the councils and all they tell us is that nothing can be done until  new administrations are in place'.

The secretary of the association, Mr. Tunde Abimbola (aka Ambassador), said some of their members had died out of frustration while others had been hospitalised for hypertension and depression due to the huge debt burden.

Abimbola cited Chief Amos Amao, a veteran in the trade, who died last year, Pa Mudashiru Gbadamosi, who passed on early this year and Moses Iheanacho (aka director) who died on April 16, this year.

Before their demise, the three vendors were owed millions of naira by ministries at the state secretariat, Central Bank of Nigeria, a federal security outfit, the state High Court as well as some local governments.

NDAN's scribe, Abimbola said besides owing the various media houses, which are getting reluctant to give them further credit line, they had problems meeting family needs and responsibilities including paying school fees of their children.