By Evelyn Usman
OZDE plaza, located onÂ Osolo way in Ajao area ofÂ Lagos, was last December thrown into commotion following a noisy verbal confrontation from one of the shops.
When inquisitive traders thronged shop 5f where the noiseÂ came from, a rattled Bureau-de-change operator was seen arguing with owner of the shop, one Mrs Ibekwe, over the laterâ€™s inability to provide explanation to the whereabouts ofÂ a woman who earlier collected $20, 000 dollar from him without giving him the naira equivalent valued at N1.1 Million.
The Bureau-de-change operator, Jubril Hassan Babangida was reportedly called on his mobile phone by this regular customerÂ to meet her at the plaza where the money was delivered to her. But rather than give him the naira equivalent, the woman reportedly directed Hassan to follow her brother to her second shop somewhere around the area to collect his money.
On getting out of the shop, his customerâ€™s brother quickly jumped on a motorcycle which immediately took off, while efforts by Hassan to catch up with him proved abortive. As if that was notÂ enough trauma for Hassan, he got the shock of his life when on getting to the same shop 5F where he had earlier met his customer in the company ofÂ another woman, he was told point blank that his purported customer also came to shop there. Then it occurred to helpless Hassan that he could have been swindled.
The case was reported at the Ajao estate Police division where investigationÂ was launched.
However,Â the woman who allegedly collected the money from Hassan has been arrested by the stateâ€™s Commissioner ofÂ Police Monitoring Unit, last week for allegedly obtaining from another victim whom she also left in a shop she claimed was hers.
Parading the suspect before newsmen, Monday, the Commandâ€™s spokesman, Mr Frank Mba said, â€œShe specialises in obtaining money under false pretense and luring her victims to shop posing as the owner and abandoning the people. She uses the shop as bait for creating a level of legitimacy to the would be victims. The curious thing about her is her looks. She is based abroad and married with eight children who are all in Belgium.
She does not look like somebody who is under serious financial stress that will be pushedÂ to the state of desperationâ€, Mba said
The bubble burst after the suspect identified as Mary Allen Fajuke reportedly met one Ifeanyi Nwane in August claiming she had a car she wanted to sell. Ifeanyi was said to have given her the sum of N300 Thousand for the Ford jeep, which he never saw.
Narrating his ordeal to crime guardÂ Ifeanyi said, â€œI got to know her through one Chichi who works with SLOT. Chichi told me the woman was her friend who had a car to sell. I work in computer village.
Later this woman, (pointing to Fajuke popularly called Alhaja) brought the Ford jeep to the computer village and said she desperately needed money to clear some of her goods. She actually bought me over with her passionate plea. Seeing she was in desperate need, I told her i had only three hundred thousand. But in actual fact she said she was going to sell it for five hundred thousand naira.
I rallied round and got the three hundred thousand which I gave to her. She came back the next day and met my brother and on noticing my brother had some money with him she said i should come and see her at a shop at Toyin street for the car keys. When i got there, i met my brother already waiting.
Having waited for a while i called her to find out where she was, she said she was going to effect the change of ownership. We waited until 6pm without any sight of her.
But to my shock next day when IÂ went to the shop i met another woman who claimed she was the real owner and when i told her the owner ofÂ the shop had collected money from me, she called in the police.
Since then I had not set my eyes on her until sometime in September when i saw her at the airport. But before I could get to her she apparently sighted me and zoomed off.
Again last week,Â I saw her at computer village and ran towards her car but she immediately zoomed off on sighting me. But for the intervention of some Rapid Response officials who chased her on motorcycles she would have escaped again. They caught up with her at post office where she even attempted to bribe the officials to release her but they refused.Â All i want is for her to refund my money â€, he stated.
OnÂ herÂ part, the chubby looking suspect admitted to having collected the sum of N300 Thousand from Ifeanyi without the intention of selling the car to him. She claimed she did that because she was desperately in need of money.
Said Fajuke â€œ when I came to Nigeria for the burial of my father, I was duped by two pastors and when i reported the case to the Police, nothing has been done to retrieve my money backâ€.
Asked if her action was aimed at taking her pound of flesh from the victims, she said, â€œ I intended paying Ifeanyi back his money . But i used the car as bait to get money with which to use for what I needed. The shop i asked him to wait for me initially belong to my friend but someone else owns it. I had to get some money to clear my goods because i am not based in Nigeria but in Belgium. My husband and eight children are there. I only came for the burial of my fatherâ€.
But she blatantly denied knowing Hassan, saying as at the time of the incident, she was not in the country.
â€œShe is lyingâ€, said Hassan who all the while was shaking his legs and head, apparently in anger. Countering her claim, Hassan said â€œÂ Â I have known the suspect for two years now.
She usually comes to our office at the International airport to change foreign currency. I met her at the International airport public car park. Sometime in December last year, she called me on the phone at about 4.10 pm to say she needed 20 thousand dollars. I told her foreign currency was scarce but I managed to get some. When I called her to inform her, she told me to bring it to her office at Ajao.
I refused at first saying it was late but she insisted she could not come because she had a flight to catch up with that night. I decided to mount an okada to Ajao estate. But on reaching there I called her to say IÂ could not locate her shop and she said I should wait in front of a bank that her brother would come and take me to the shop.
When I called later having waited for some time, she asked me to cross over to Ozde plaza which is directly opposite the bank. There, a young man came and took me to shop 5F where I met her and another woman with a sales girl. I brought out the money, counted it and gave it to her.
She counted and ascertained it was correct. But she said I should follow her brother to her other shop toÂ get the naira equivalent. But to my shock when we gotÂ outside, the young man just hopped on a bike and before I could ask him to wait, they zoomed off.
I mountedÂ a motorcycle andÂ followed him but could not catch up with them because they were riding onÂ a power bike. At a point close to Toyota under bridge, I asked the okada man not to follow them because that was the exact spot my brother was killed sometime ago.
I decided to goÂ back to the shop at AjaoÂ where I asked the woman I earlier saw about Alhaja. But her response shocked me as sheÂ asked what was going on ? She said the woman also came to buy something from her and that she was yet to pay. I looked so stupid and thought the woman could be up tso some game.
I quickly rushed down to Ajao estate Police station where i reported the matter. Then last week my phone rang and the caller said he was a policeman. He asked me to describe the woman that collected money from me and I did.
I was asked to come to the command where to my surprise I saw the Alhajaâ€
Recovered from the suspect, were photographs of posh cars which she reportedly showed to her unsuspecting customers as those she intends to sell. Also recovered, were two cheques of N1million each.
This Mba said, â€œ she further uses to convince her prospective buyersâ€. Mba therefore called on members of the public who could have fallen victim to the woman to report at his office.