A travel agent, Mr Lukman Abdulkareem, on Friday told an Ikeja High Court how another travel agent, Sharafadeen Irorun, allegedly defrauded him of seven million Naira meant for Hajj pilgrimage.
While being led in evidence by state counsel, Mr Olawale Ijabike, Abdulkareem testified that he had been in partnership with the Nigeria Armed Forces at Bonny Camp, Ikoyi, Lagos, as a Hajj travel agent for 20 years.
The witness said he came in contact with the defendant sometime in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.
He said: “I use to give the armed forces numbers of pilgrim clients.
“In 2014, the Saudi Arabian Authority did not allow too many people to Mecca due to Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.
“I had to refund some of my clients but two of my clients insisted I must look for slots for them which made me get in contact with the the defendant.”
The witness said that one Alhaji Mukaila Salau introduced him to the defendant and gave him the defendant’s telephone number.
“He said he had already spoken with Salau, when I called him on the phone, and he told me to make payment for the two slots if I really needed it.
“The defendant told me he had four forms with him and that his mother and wife would use two and that the remaining two forms were still available for my clients to use, as those who wanted to use it earlier changed their minds,” he said.
The witness further told the court that he transferred the sum of N1.5 million to the defendants for the purchase of the forms.
He added that the defendant called him few days later and asked if he needed more slots, that he had met another man at Alausa who was ready to give him as many slots as he wanted.
“That was how I paid for nine clients in total. I paid N770,00 each.
“When he brought the forms, we met under the Iyana-Ipaja Bridge, and I told him we should go to my office but he said he could not dupe me and that Salau, who introduced him to me, is a well-known person,” he said.
The witness added that he made photostat copies of the forms given to him by the defendants.
“I gave the forms to my clients only for one of them, Malam Takashi, to call me and said that he was told that the form was fake when he went to verify it at Alausa.
“I called the defendant and he came to Lagos from Saki in Oyo State and said I would have to follow him to Saki to sort out the issue.
“He said that he would take me to Sikiru, the man he bought the forms from.
“When we got to Saki, he took me to Sikiru’s mother and she called her son.
“Sikiru told his mother that the original forms were with him and that the fake ones they gave us would be copied to the original to avoid errors,” the witness told the court.
Justice Oyindamola Ogala adjourned the case until Nov.11 for the continuation of trial.
NAN reports that Lagos State Government had on June 30 arraigned Irorun on a 12-count-charge bordering on stealing and obtaining money under false pretences.
The prosecution alleged that the defendant and others still at large fraudulently obtained the sum from some intending pilgrims with an assurance to prepare them to travel for the 2014 Hajj in Saudi Arabia.