It was a shocking tale as a middle-aged woman yesterday alerted concerned Nigerians to be cautious of seeking assistance from the public through those claiming to be professional fundraisers. She described such organisations or individuals as fake, callous, fraudulent and evil-minded.
Narrating her ordeal to journalists in Benin, the Edo State capital, Mrs. Charity Atoe, a mother of three said a ‘Christian’ sister defrauded her of N6 million. The money was said to have been donated by well-spirited Nigerians for a corrective surgery on her child’s genitals.
According to her, she has become wiser now and needs to alert Nigerians about her ugly plight in the hands of relations or friends who pretend to be concerned about their plight. Atoe said her four-year old child, Testimony, was diagnosed of ‘bladder atrophy’ by doctors at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in 2013 and needed N2 million for corrective surgery.
She said: “Frustration in Benin took me to Lagos where I met Blessing (surname withheld), who hails from Abia State. I was wondering around Ojuelegba areas of Lagos in search of financial assistance to enable my son to undergo the surgical operation and ran into Blessing.
“The lady, who claimed to be a widow, rode in a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), when we met and after an initial interaction with her, she wanted to know what took me and my children to the streets of Lagos.”
Atoe added that days after she met Blessing, she was happy that the ‘Good Samaritan’ invited journalists to interview her and even gave out her own name (Blessing) and account number to the public in the guise of raising funds for her son, Testimony.
She said: “I got a phone call from a Germany based-Nigerian who claimed to have heard about my travail. The man sought to know if I was the mother of Testimony. He told me that he had donated an undisclosed amount into an account opened for my son in a bank by Blessing to enable him to carry out the operation.”
Atoe did not know the bank account or how much individuals gave to her son until she saw photographs in some national dailies on the streets of Lagos and curiosity got the better of her.
She added: “I was initially happy, thinking that the woman was a true helper. I became curious until a certain woman brought N500,000 to Blessing’s shop. They counted the money and she said the sum of N100,000 was for Testimony.
I was so foolish and ignorant. I though she meant well for me and my son. “Another man who brought money one day met me looking pale and hungry, and promised to settle me with additional money so that after the operation I can rehabilitate myself.”
Atoe explained that said she was hoping that Blessing, who initiated the move to raise funds for Testimony’s surgery, went on to open an account at Ikeja, for the purpose without any input from her would keep faith.
“I became suspicious on a certain day when we went to pay an undisclosed amount into the bank account at Ikeja, Lagos State. I was not privy to the details when a bank official, a lady, stood up and said ‘who is the mother of this baby -Testimony between the two of you?’
“The bank official demanded to know why my photograph was not in the joint account. After initial skepticism, Blessing promised to provide my photograph to the bank. Consequently an argument ensued between us over the total amount that was paid into the account.
“I learnt from Blessing that the total amount paid into the account was N3 million as against the N5.3 million which she initially admitted had come into the bank account on the day the bank officer challenged her over the motherhood of the child.