Probe LASODA for alleged N500m misappropriation, persons with disabilities beg Sanwo-Olu

The Joint National Association Of Persons With Disabilities, Lagos State Chapter, has urged the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to probe the alleged misappropriation of the N500m Disability Fund by the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs. 

The association said the state Special People’s Law established the disability fund to advance the cause of PWDs in the state, adding that LASODA has been receiving N500m annually since 2016 without its members getting the full benefits of the fund due to mismanagement.

The chairman of the association, Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, disclosed this on Thursday during a press briefing organised by JONAPWD in collaboration with all disability clusters in the state. 

Adebayo blamed the failure of the state governor to constitute the governing board of LASODA to monitor the leadership and activities of the agency since he assumed office in 2019 as the major reason for the alleged misappropriation. 

LASODA is an agency of the state that was established by the Lagos State Special People’s Law of June 2011 to uphold the rights of all persons living with any form of disability in the state by safeguarding them against all forms of discrimination and giving them equal rights and opportunities.

Adebayo said, “The Lagos State Government needs to urgently address alleged misappropriation of the fund currently ongoing in the LASODA, thereby denying over 2.5 million persons with disabilities in the state their rights.

“The Lagos State Special People’s Law (SPL) established the Disability Fund to advance the cause of PWDs in the state, and since 2016 has been receiving 500 million naira annually. 

“However, the lack of transparency in the process of administering the 500 million naira disability fund has further worsened poverty and exclusion in the community.

“Since the dissolution of the LASODA Governing Board in 2019, there has been no governing board to provide oversight and administrative function to the agency, as provided by the SPL. 

“This lacuna has helped the gross mismanagement of funds to foster within the agency as there are no consequences for misconduct.”

Adebayo also accused LASODA of non-adherence to the state’s Procurement Law, noting that the award of contracts by the agency was a gross violation of the law. 

“Specifically, LASODA awarded contracts to a company with no legal or corporate identities—and some not eligible for the award they got,” he said 

Continuing, he said persons with disabilities in the state were being owed empowerment and social security support funds. 

He explained, “Some of the eligible beneficiaries of the 100,000 and 50,000 naira empowerment and social security support fund are yet to receive the fund till now, despite that LASODA claimed to have spent 10 million naira on that already.

“There are other instances where monies have been approved for PWDs, but after the public announcement and token shared before the media, nothing is ever heard again. 

“For example, the 12 million naira given to select PWDs present at the one-day with the Governor in December 2020 were not given to all beneficiaries. While some attendees got N100,000 each, some were given N50,000 each and some did not receive anything.”

He urged Sanwo-Olu to address their concerns within the next 14 days or PWDs would be forced to embark on protests until the government harkens to their cry. 

He further said, “We demand that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu urgently, constitute the LASODA Governing Board with all disability clusters represented to give direction and inclusiveness in the management of the agency and avoid the mismanagement of funds which has further led to the impoverishment of over 2.5 million PWDs in the state. 

“Initiate an independent audit of the agency and its managers to expose the fraud and corruption in the execution of projects and non-compliance with the Lagos State Procurement law. 

“Ensures the immediate disbursement of unpaid N100,000 and N50,000 empowerment and social security support funds respectively to all beneficiaries. 

“End the favoritism in allocating funds to specific disability clusters, which have led to the marginalization of some disability groups in the state.”

When contacted, the General Manager of LASODA, Mr. Dare Dairo, described the allegation as cheap emotional blackmail, noting that the N500m disability fund that the association was talking about was in the state government coffers.

Dairo said, “My agency is under a ministry and the government has a structure. All those things that they said are not so. Adebayo is alleging that I have mismanaged N500m right, let him bring his evidence. What is happening is a deliberate attempt to run somebody down. Whatever they are saying does not represent the general impression of all people with disabilities in Lagos State.

“Now, in government, there are processes and procedures for everything. There is a statutory provision in the law for the N500m. It does not mean that the N500m was put in LASODA’s account. Let them go and find out from the appropriate authority how much has been released to LASODA. Adebayo knows this, he was on the previous board. Their allegation is just emotional blackmail. For those that were being owed, the payment is ongoing.”  

SOURCE: PUNCH

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