The story of arrest, arraignment and subsequent conviction of Aminu Maru, a staff of Accountant general of the federation seconded to NAHCON of one count charge of breach of official trust has continue to generate interests especially from hajj stakeholders who has been following the social media trials and character assassinations targeted at the leadership of activities of national hajj commission of Nigeria.
The journey that landed Aminu Maru in trouble began when the leadership of NAHCON wrote and alerted Department of State Services of ‘stolen document’ from the commission. What necessitated the petition was the publication of some document relating to payment made to Saudi based hajj service providers by one Ibrahim Garba Wala on his facebook page.
On receiving the petition, DSS invites some staffs of NAHCON for questioning and were later released. Unknown to the likes of Aminu Maru, DSS had mounted surveillance on NAHCON and its entire staff that includes the leadership of the commission.
Our sources told us that “after the publication Saudi Arabia ministry of hajj and Umrah was said to have expressed its displeasure at such publication of hajj services payment on social media in Nigeria. it as a result of this, that security agencies immediately swing into action to avoid possible diplomatic rows with Saudi Arabia government.
However, between November 15 and November 21, 2017, Aminu Maru was eventually tracked giving information to a certain social media activist on where to collect a certain documents in exchange for agreed sums of money.
He was later arraigned before Wuse Zone 2 Magistrates’ Court, Abuja . Aminu Maru who resides in Janyan house, opposite Gwagwalada Park, Area 1, Abuja, however, pleaded guilty to the one count charge of breach of official trust and pleaded that justice be tempered with mercy.
The Magistrate, Mr Raphael Egbe, in his judgment said the court relied on the provision of section 99 B of the penal code to sentence the convict. Egbe, who told the convict to be of good behaviour so as not to go back to crime, however, gave him an option of N100, 000.
In an article published in daily trust of 22ND June titled “Hajj 2017: NAHCON and real face of saboteurs”, one Hassan Maccido had revealed how he was contracted to help in destroying the image of the leadership of NAHCON by an aggrieved Hajj service provider He said “On the 7th of June this year, two of the six-man syndicate currently responsible for imbuing the social and public spaces of the country with anti-NAHCON slogan summoned me and requested me to invest my skills and fraternity with some popular cybernauts and civil society advocates to promote their cause. As is natural with every evil cause, at the beginning, they clothed their evil motives with beautiful pro-masses attires in order to blur the lines and make the stance appear honorable. And they succeeded because no good Samaritan would listen to their plausible sermon and refuse aiding their idea or care about verifying their apparently perfect argument. It will naturally appeal to and compel every decent individual to swing to action. What could be more honourable than a struggle seeking for relief and justice to Nigeria pilgrims? What could be noble as piloting the job of mounting all kinds of pressure to force a surreptitiously inflated Hajj fare to succumb to fairer terms?”
He further confessed that “ Since my first engagement with them on the 7th, we held fifteen different meetings at many locations. Sometimes in hotel rooms and other times guest house or residents of one of the key profellers of the syndicate in question. I was very closely engaged because I minuted every single meeting held. I was also given the task of perfecting two out of the six-point agenda of the syndicate. I was responsible for contact handling with social media and non-governmental pressure organisation- I handled the tiring job of inciting lot of youth against leaders and activist against NAHCON. I aided immensely in making NAHCON one of the most popular government agency in Nigeria today. The remaining four agendas being executive, legislative, judicial and clerical approaches, I carried out the secretarial job of record keeping. I kept the lists of senior and influential citizens of the above mentioned categories and the goals we aimed to achieve through them. We designed short and long term plans we in time, intended to unveil.”
After the publication of the above piece, the writer was said to have tendered the names and details of those that participated in the plots to the security agencies. It is as a result of this that many people were put on surveillance radar without them knowing.
Not yet ‘uhuru’
Hajj Reporters reliably gathered that those who want to extract their ‘pound of flesh’ against NAHCON are still very much active and has vowed to do whatever it takes to achieve their objectives of forcing ‘changes’ of leadership at the commission. The “short and long term plan, as confessed by Hassan in his confessional piece are still very much in the offing. The signature of those who lost out in hajj services contracts seems to be visible in some of these plots.
For example, on April 23 2017, daily trust newspaper has published an investigative story titled’ How Kano pilgrims lost N460m to accommodation scam” part of the reports stated that “ “Investigations by this newspaper have shown that these pilgrims were among the 2,405 Kano pilgrims whose Mecca accommodation was provided by a Saudi-based Nigerian service provider, Island Economic Group.
This service provider, owned by Ibrahim Suleiman Yusuf, lodged the pilgrims in three accommodation facilities thus: Saifuddeen Burhanuddeen 1, with a 714 pilgrim’s capacity; Saifuddeen Burhanuddeen 2 with 836 capacities and Saifuddeen Burhanuddeen 3, with 855 capacity.
Official documents analysed by our reporters revealed that Mr Yusuf, popularly known as Ibrahim Sabo Lagos, was one of the beneficiaries of the N460 million accommodation subsidy paid by Kano State. “
His company, Island Economic Group, was paid 1.54 million Saudi Riyals (N185 million) by Kano State government, on June 9, 2016, about seven days before the deputy governor announced the accommodation subsidy.
“The Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board paid the N185 million cash to the company, “being government subsidy in respect of 2016 Makkah accommodation” on June 9, 2016. The company acknowledged receipt of the money through a receipt voucher with a number: 4031059023.”
It further said “Findings revealed that the service providers hire houses from real owners at prices less than SR2,000 and collected SR4000 from the pilgrims and outrageous subsidy from states.
In the case of Island Economic Group, the company hired houses at SR2500 but collected SR4000 from NAHCON and additional SR1.54million from Kano State as subsidy for accommodation.
The official said the company got about SR5000 for each bed space for the Shahrul Mansoor accommodation even though they hired it from the landlords at SR2500. But the company was paid SR4000 by NAHCON and SR1.54 million from the state.”
The paper reported that it was because of the above reforms that the beneficiary of the status quo vowed to make hajj operation difficult for NAHCON and its leadership, “The elimination of accommodation agents, despite saving hundreds millions for pilgrims didn’t go down well with some beneficiaries of the state subsidies.
“A Saudi-based group known as the Nigerian Arewa Foundation, chaired by the owner of Island Economic Group, petitioned the House of Representatives, accusing NAHCON chairman of corruption and describing its reform as attempt to sending them out of business.”
The chairman of Island Economic Group was quoted to have said “Our foundation members have no other means of living than this business and we are bonafide Nigerians who feel also that we deserve legislative fair hearing”. From the foregoing, it seems that NAHCON has touched the viper’s tail with its reform and their reaction may come in different shape and size.”