The Lagos State government has denied withholding the N25 million donation made to Mary Daniel, a 26-year-old amputee, whose story went viral about two weeks ago when photos of her selling bottled water in traffic were shared on the social media.
The amputee, who claims to be a single-mother and orphan, shared the story of how she lost her leg in an accident. Her parents also died in the accident and is left to cater for daughter and aged grandmother all alone, she narrated.
Since then, well-meaning Nigerians have donated funds for her to get her off the streets. The Lagos State government, through the office of civic engagement, also took the amputee in and catered for her welfare.
But a report surfaced on social media Wednesday saying the state government had detected lies in Miss Daniel’s story and withheld the N25 million donated to her.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Gboyega Akosile, the chief press secretary to the Lagos State governor, he said the report was untrue.
“The story is not that they detected lies from her stories. She requested that she wanted to leave the custody of the state,” Mr Akosile said.
“The Special Adviser, Civic Engagement felt she couldn’t just let her go like that, since it was public knowledge that we took her in. That was why she called in the necessary agencies, NGOs and Police before they let her go.”
‘Why we let her go’
Aderemi Adebowale, the special adviser, Office of Civic Engagement, said in a statement Thursday that the state government has handed over Miss Daniel to the leader of the Igala community in Lagos.
The official said the amputee now has the resources to take care of herself and her child which is why the state allowed her go.
A total sum of N25 million was raised for the amputee, which was collected using her bank account.
“The ultimate desire of the State government is to ensure that Daniel becomes a civically responsible citizen in the State. She now has the resources to take care of herself and her baby and have a new lease of life”.
“The government took the step to shield Daniel from possible fraudsters who may target the funds donated to her by well-meaning Nigerians.
“Daniel was handed over to a Committee comprising of the representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Youth and Social Development, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and the Leader of Igala community in Lagos State, Mr. Sanni Yakubu Ejima in the presence of the Divisional Police Officer, Alausa and representative of the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command,” she said.
The Nation newspaper on Thursday quoted the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Hakeem Odumosu, as saying that said lies were detected in Miss Daniel’s story prior to the public donation.
The newspaper quoted the police boss as saying that although the amputee is not in custody of the police,” she is being investigated” and the state government is “preventing her from accessing the money.”
“There were irregularities and lies in the account of her life she gave. It was discovered that contrary to her claim that her parents died during an accident that left her amputated, it was discovered that her father is very much alive and that she was amputated from birth.
“It was also discovered that her presence in Oshodi was staged. Those working with her played on the intelligence of Nigerians to get donations for her.
“It came to light when the people started threatening her. She promised some N500,000 others different amounts and was planning to return to her home state when the information leaked.
“Presently, the state government is preventing her from accessing the money. The government does not want a situation where it will become a trend for people to cook up stories, manipulate the people to get donations,” the Commissioner said.
At a briefing to journalists on Thursday afternoon, Mr Odumosu admitted that he spoke about the amputee telling lies in her story.
“I did not investigate the case, but the state government. We all know what went into the viral video. She went on social media, and sympathetic Nigerians contributed a lot of money that amounted to N25 million.
“While that was going on, we got information that she was never involved in an accident that led to that and it was not at adult stage that she had the leg amputated.
“She alleged that the father was late and all the family responsibilities on her shoulders. Investigation of the state government disclosed that the father is alive and healthy.
“In the cause of all these things, so many things came up that made the state government hand her over to the social welfare.
Mr Odumosu said it was not the police that investigated.
He added that when she was being handed over to the social welfare team, the police were invited because they got information that some people might come to ‘disrupt’ the place.
Mrs Adebowale’s statement on Thursday, however, made no mention of the police chief’s claims. The official merely said that “the police were brought in to demonstrate that the state had taken good care of Daniel while in her custody and to ensure Daniel’s safety thereafter.”
She added that the Committee will oversee Miss Daniel’s rehabilitation and ensure that the donated funds are judiciously utilized for the improvement of her standard of living and that of her baby.
‘Donation belongs to amputee’
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos, Gbenga Omotosho, also said the state government has no plans of denying the amputee of her “huge donation.”
Mr Omotoso said this during an interview on Star FM on Thursday.
The Commissioner said the state government is ensuring that the amputee remains unmolested and safe to do whatever she intends to do with the money.
“That is a confirmation Lagos State is a land of hope and opportunities,” Mr Omotosho said, adding that the amputee has been handed over to the Igala community and a non-profit organisation, Irede Foundation.