The Lagos State government has withheld the N25 million donated by well-meaning Nigerians for Mary Daniel, an amputee water hawker, after reportedly discovering discrepancies in her story.
Hakeem Odumosu, the Lagos Commissioner of Commissioner, disclosed this in an interview on Wednesday.
Daniel, who prior to now hawked table water around the Oshodi area of the state, drew the attention of Nigerians after her pictures surfaced on social media engaging in her trade in traffic.
According to the 26-year-old single mother, her travails began in December 2006 after losing her parents and her right leg to an accident while they were travelling to their hometown, Ayingba, in Kogi State from Katsina State for Yuletide.
She then said she was forced to drop out of school at Junior Secondary School Three (JSS 3) and was impregnated in 2018 by a man who denied responsibility in Anambra State.
She relocated to Lagos in early April and began hawking bottled water in traffic and passing the night on the balcony of a building on Suwebatu Street, Oshodi.
Following the emergence of her story, many Nigerians, including prominent politicians and sports stars, donated funds to her, which totalled N25 million.
Just a few days ago, a celebrity birthday party was held in her honour featuring many cakes, fanfare, photoshoots, among others.
It was, however, learnt that Daniel began receiving strange calls from those who allegedly staged her story, with threats to reveal the truth unless she gave them their share of the money.
According to Odumosu, it was discovered by officials of the state Social Welfare Department that Daniel’s father is still alive and that her right leg was amputated from birth, contrary to her claims.
He noted she was about to leave Lagos State when the true story emerged, adding that the state government has prevented her from accessing the donation pending the conclusion of the investigation of her story.
“The police were there but she was not handed over to us. She was handed over to the Social Welfare. There were irregularities and lies in the account of her life she gave,” the Lagos Police Commissioner told The Nation.
“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.
“I had to attach some policemen to her to prevent any attack on her when she went to the bank. We suspected those people might follow her but everything went well as they were not seen.
“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.”