By Yemi Adeleye
The Deaf Coalition Against Corruption on Thursday staged a peaceful protest to Lagos State Governor’s Office and House of Assembly over alleged corruption in the Lagos State Association of the Deaf (LSAD).
The protesters, led by the group’s Coordinator, Mr. Kehinde Akewusola, urged Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Speaker, Lagos Assembly, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, to investigate the alleged financial mismanagement by the executive of LSAD.
The aggrieved deaf, wearing customised T-shirts with inscriptions such as “Deaf Hate Injustice and Exploitation”, “Deaf Stand Against Corruption”, also hoisted placards with various inscriptions to express their grievances.
Some inscriptions on their placards include “Kill corruption in Deaf Community”, “We demand LSAD looted funds be refunded”, and ” Stop the exploitation and corruption practices in LSAD”.
Others are: “LSAD members need empowerment, good jobs, healthcare, welfare but Excos alone enjoying among others.
In their petition submitted to the Office of the Governor and Lagos Assembly, the group said that its members were in pain and suffering due to the alleged corruption in the LSAD.
“Every deaf citizen in the Lagos State Deaf Community is pained because those we entrusted to lead us have been exploiting our ignorance since.
“Will you believe our past Chairman, LSAD, Mr Lukman Agbabiaka, throughout his eight years tenure mismanaged funds totaling N11m. As he completed his eight-year tenure, no office, no legacy, and nothing was left for us as a legacy.
“To worsen the situation, he sees himself as innocent, supported by his lackeys and cronies including past and present executives who benefitted from him as they looted our commonwealth and patrimony,” the group said.
According to the petition, the realities on the ground now is that many deaf girls are selling their body to make out a living, especially with the hardship COVID-19 pandemic brought to the nation.
The petition, jointly signed by Akewusola and the group’s Secretary, Mr Taiye Oloye, stated further that many deaf had turned beggars and destitute.
It added: “During the COVID-19 lockdown, many go hungry, several are dying for lack of care and treatment of their health challenges. Our people are dying in silence.
“We are demanding that our former chairman returned looted funds so we can have befitting accommodation for our use and also to take care of the divergent needs of our community.
“The present excos of LSAD who are also supporting corruption and corrupt practices, we are watching you all. If care is not taken we will push for disbandment and suspension of LSAD by the government.”
According to Akewusola, some LSAD executive members were fighting those who requested accountability from them, hence the reason for the formation of the coalition.
He said that since six members of the last executive were also part of the current executive led by Mr. Alaba Adefala, who had been suspended, the alleged corruption had continued in the association.
Akewusola said that only the deaf was yet to have a secretariat among people living disability in Lagos.
He appealed to Sanwo-Olu to appoint a deaf as an aide as well as assign a language interpreter in the office of the governor for proper communication and dissemination of information.
Reacting, Mr. Kingsley Njoku, LSAD Assitant Secretary, told NAN that the protesters were being sponsored to rubbish the former chairman over his aspiration to contest for the office of the National President of the Nigeria National Association of the Deaf.
Speaking on behalf of the Acting Chairman, Mr Isa Ahmadu, Njoku noted that the allegations had already been taken to the police, but they were found to be false as the group could not substantiate many of the issues raised against the former chairman and the excos.
According to him, though the substantive chairman, Mr. Alaba Adefala, had been suspended for some breaches, the Acting Chairman would have looked into some of the group’s grievances but for the COVID-19 lockdown which slowed down investigations.
On welfare, Njoku said: “It is not true that we abandoned the deaf. Just last month, we still distributed palliatives to all our members across the local governments.
“So, these people are being sponsored and doing everything to pull Mr. Lukman Agbabiaka down. They are trying to pull down a good man out of hatred.”