About 150 intending pilgrims risked not making it to the holy land as an official of the Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board they had paid to could not account for their money.
Most of the affected people, WikiTimes learnt are from Bida local council in Niger State. They had paid into the personal account of one Nma Ndagana Bida, an Area Pilgrims Officer (APO) for the LGA.
Generally, Niger State intending pilgrims have resigned to faith prior to a late-hour screening conducted in Minna before driving to Abuja for airlift to Mecca.
Sources told WikkiTimes that the pilgrims were stranded in Minna, fearing the Saudi Arabia government could close its gate for pilgrims. They would later be relieved following social media outcry by Nigerlites.
Despite the good news, about 150 of them risk losing their money even as they stay back in Nigeria.
Bida collected the money, according to sources but refused to deposit it in the board’s account.
One of the victims (name withheld) told BBC Hausa she paid the money two years ago. But due to COVID-19 restriction, she could not go.
“We performed all the hajj training and all preliminary activities, unknown to me, my money was not paid to the board, I gave mine to APO,” she said.
She added that since she received the news that her money had not reached the board, she fell sick due to the shock of the news and according to her, there are tens of victims who are yet to know that they were affected. “We are many in Bida LGA,” she disclosed.
She said she was lured by the accused officer that they need replacement after the death of an intending pilgrim, “he then gave me his account number which I sent the money through.”
The Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board says it has received such complaints from many intending pilgrims who said to have paid their money to an officer of the board.
The Chairman Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Umar Maku Lapai, stated that the board can only trace the payments that were documented but hardly delineate the payments made in cash. However, he said the board had directed the Chairman of Bida Local Government Area to set up a committee to investigate the matter.
Lapai added that the board could not take any action until the findings of the committee were out. He however disclosed that the suspect was arrested and the investigation report is expected to be released soon.
WikkiTimes had reported that the Borno State High Court sitting in Maiduguri, had sentenced one Bashir Goni Ali on a one-count charge bordering on cheating of pilgrims to the tune of One Million Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N1, 200,000).
The defendant was arraigned alongside his company, Bash Trust and Travel Agency Nigeria Limited, for fraudulently collecting the said sum from one Rabi Ismail Mamza and her mother on the pretext of facilitating a travel document for the duo to perform the 2015 Lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia.