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Hajj fare fraud: One year after, Kaduna victim still cries for justice

Almost a year after and with another hajj season on, there seems to be no relief for Yusuf despite the fact that the suspect was…

Almost a year after and with another hajj season on, there seems to be no relief for Yusuf despite the fact that the suspect was arrested, investigated and arraigned by the Kaduna State Police Command before Magistrate Court 12, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kaduna.

In an interview with Sunday Trust, the victim said that his travails started when he wanted to secure a hajj seat and he was introduced to Nura Zakari by one Malam Abubakar Auwal. “When we came, Malam Nura told us that there was a hajj seat. He assured me that I would get one but asked whether I had the money to pay because there was no time. I went immediately and brought N300, 000 to him.”

The victim said that “I brought the balance of the money the subsequent week. All this I did together with Malam Auwal, unknown to me that he was conniving with Malam Nura to defraud me. I went to him more than 20 times but he was always telling me to come back the next day.”

Yusuf started sensing foul play when his name was not found on the list of pilgrims from his local government area. Unlike other intending pilgrims from his locality, he was also not screened, inoculated or given uniforms and other necessary kits by the pilgrims’ board.

It was at that point that the victim decided to check on Malam Nura in the pilgrims’ board headquarters along Katsina Road, Kaduna. “It was then that I realised Malam Nura was not a staff of the pilgrims’ board. It also dawned on me that I was defrauded of my hard earned money”, Yusuf said.

It was because of that the suspect was arrested on November 18, 2008. The Kaduna State Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Aminu Lawal, told our reporter that the suspect had confessed to the crime and he would be charged to court for prosecution as his offence was contrary to  section 96 and 322 of the penal code.    

The PPRO stated that “after the report by the complainant, we summoned the suspect to appear for questioning, which he did. He made statements and confessed that he collected the money with the hope of getting a seat for the victim which, at the end, failed to materialize, only for him to siphon the money into his personal pocket.”

Sunday Trust gathered that Nura Zakari, a civil servant with Kaduna State, was formerly a director of the pilgrims board’s Hajj Transit Camp in Mando, Kaduna. He was seconded from the state’s Ministry of Youths and Sports to the pilgrims’ board until about two years ago when he was relieved of his duty in the pilgrims’ board and redeployed back to his ministry.

The case took another dimension on March 5th 2009, when the presiding magistrate complained of alleged interference from highly placed government officials on behalf of the suspect and subsequently, counsel to the complainant wrote a petition to the Kaduna State Chief Judge over the alleged interference. While waiting for the chief judge’s response to the petition, the presiding judge went ahead and dismissed the case for want of diligent prosecution.

In a letter dated June 10th 2009 and addressed to the Head of Service of the state, the counsel to the victim said that the authenticity of the document the accused presented to the Head of Service as his vindication judgement was suspect “as it doesn’t carry the signature and stamp of any court official/officer.” The counsel therefore urged that “our petition is still under investigation in the office of the State Chief Judge. The money they conspired to collect from our client is still in court, tendered and admitted as evidence.”

The suspect was, however, re-arrested by the police two weeks ago. The Kaduna State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Aminu Lawal told Sunday Trust that the suspect was “was invited by the police over a matter which is being thoroughly investigated.”

The arrest, Sunday Trust gathered, may not be unconnected with a petition before the Chief Judge of Kaduna State, dated March 6, 2009; sent by the counsel to the complainant, over the presiding judge’s complain of pressure and interference on the case from senior government officials in the state.

In a letter addressed to the Head of Service of the state, dated June 10th 2009 and made available to Sunday Trust, the counsel to the victim said that the authenticity of the document the accused presented to the Head of Service as his vindication judgement was suspect “as it doesn’t carry the signature and stamp of any court official/officer.”

The counsel, therefore urged that “our petition is still under investigation in the office of the State chief Judge. The court is aware of this as well as Muhammad Nura and Awwal. The money they conspired to collect from our client is still in court, tendered and admitted as evidence.”

The victim also denied being used by a senior official at the Kaduna State Muslim Pilgrims Board against the suspect. The suspect, who is still an employee of the Kaduna State government, was never sanctioned by the state government despite his involvement in this criminal act.

Also, the state pilgrims’ board has not made any moves in prosecuting the suspect for using its name to defraud the unsuspecting victim. The board has, for some couple of years, prohibited its staff members from collecting cash from intending pilgrims; they instead accept only bank drafts; even though it doesn’t still stop the racketeering.

The fate of Yusuf is still hanging, “even though Malam Nura has refunded my money to the court”, the victim said. He therefore appealed to Kaduna State government and the state judiciary to come to his aid by retrieving back his money.

With the imminent closure of paying hajj fare, it is still likely that Yusuf’s dream of performing Islam’s life-time article of faith this year will not be realised. It’s also not clear how long the victim will still wait for justice.