No fewer than seven persons have accused the coordinator of a support group for the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu Progressive Movement in Kwara State, Kareem Shamsudeen Babatunde, of selling fake Hajj slots to them.
The victims narrated how Babatunde told them that he was the biological son of the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress and former National Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasin and also claimed that he was a close ally of Femi Gbajabiamila, the Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu, in order to achieve the alleged Hajj slots racketeering.
They accused Babatunde, who had aspired to contest for the Offa, Oyun, Ifelodun Federal House of Representatives seat, of impersonating a member of the Lagos State Hajj Commission Board, fabricating fake pilgrimage documents and Hajj forms to swindle them.
According to the victims, who are indigenes of Offa, they discovered that they had been fleeced after one of them visited the commission to make enquiries. They said efforts at arresting Babatunde had been unsuccessful as he allegedly bolted away and refused to pick their phone calls.
One of the affected intending pilgrims, Salimon Ganiyu, explained that the suspect sold each slot to them at the rate of N1.7 million and that all other six victims paid to Babatunde through him.
Commenting on how he met the suspect, Ganiyu said, “It all started four years ago during the ‘Kwara Otoge political movement’. We had a group called ‘Kwara in Lagos’ which consists of Kwara indigenes in Lagos State. I am one of the pioneer members of the group. Our PRO, Tunde Adelodun, used to post our activities online; that was when Kareem Shamsudeen Babatunde messaged him. He said he was from Offa, Kwara State, and wanted to join the group.
“He presented himself as a biological son of Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasin. We knew him to be Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasin’s biological son because that was who he introduced himself to us as. He said he was from Aponbi compound in Offa; we know Alhaji Najeem Yasin is from the same compound. That was when my friends started telling me about a son of Alhaji Yasin who was interested in joining us. You can deduce that I did not know him directly.
“Babatunde was introduced to me by some of my friends. He also duped them. They were all sending me the money for their Hajj slots so I could send to him. The total amount is N8.3million from seven people. I was the one who sent him all the money from some other people.”
He added, “After the 2023 presidential elections, Babatunde was introduced to me by some friends who said he (Babatunde) claimed he was given two Hajj slots for his support for the APC during the 2023 general elections. We later knew he was the coordinator of an APC support group called BAT Progressive Movement (BPM), so we believed him. He said the support group was given two Hajj slots and members were fighting on them, thus, they resolved to sell them and distribute the money. We negotiated for N1.7m for each slot. We bought them.
“Later, he said Hajia Kafilat Ogbara, the current APC Representative for Kosofe Federal Constituency, Lagos State, gave him two more slots. Babatunde claimed that he was able to get the slots from her through the intervention of his father, Alhaji Najeem Yasin. We bought them, making five.
“He later came back to tell us that one of his friends, a personal assistant to Femi Gbajabiamila said he was a Christian and didn’t need the two Hajj slots; he claimed to be negotiating with him, but later he said the friend agreed. Babatunde even suggested that I should meet Gbajabiamila himself and promised to arrange for the meeting.
“The last payment was made after he called me on phone that Oniba Ekun of Iba, Oba Sulaiman Raji Adeshina, Asade 1, (Jafo Authority) had given him an extra Hajj slot. He said he didn’t want to go, owing to the multiple projects he was handling and said I should use the slot as compensation. I said I was not interested in Hajj for now, that was when one of my friends said he would like to take the opportunity as I was not interested. The only payment I did not make directly to him was for the first person who paid him. I was the one who transferred other people’s money to him. All these happened between March and April, this year.”
“It was in early May that we discovered all to be fraud. That was even before we approached the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to verify the documents he gave us. We were suspicious when he refused to pick our phone calls. Lagos NAHCON confirmed the documents and receipts to be fake.”
“One of the duped persons, Muhyideen Oriyomi, had to find an alternative financial means of getting to Makkah for Hajj. We noticed Babatunde was a dubious person when he didn’t organise Hajj seminar. He would say that he was running around to make sure people who bought slots from him were in the first batch. He told us he was communicating with Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi, Lagos Commissioner for Home Affairs but all were lies,” he contended.
Ganiyu alleged that several attempts to arrest the suspect failed, saying, “I personally employed the services of the Nigeria Police Force, Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Oodua Peoples Congress and other security operatives. The OPC people were disturbing him with calls but he wouldn’t pick. He would call us and plead with us that he would pay. He never did. He didn’t even pay a penny. He said he used the money for a project.”
Meanwhile, several phone calls made to Babatunde by our correspondent were not responded to.
When a text message was sent to him, he simply replied, “I will get back to you this evening.”
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