BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
The coordinator of a support group for the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu Progressive Movement in Kwara State, Kareem Shamsudeen Babatunde, who was accused of selling fake Hajj slots to no fewer than seven Muslims, has promised to refund the victims their money.
The victims had narrated how Babatunde told them 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 he was a close ally of Femi Gbajabiamila, the Chief of Staff to the President, 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 before swindling them.
According to the victims, who are indigenes of Offa, they got to discover they had been fleeced after one of them visited the commission. 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.
Meanwhile, after avoiding several phone calls and text messages sent to him by our correspondent for about a week, Babatunde has vowed to return the victims’ money in a statement he issued and made available to The Point.
Babatunde, who is aspiring to contest the chairmanship position for Offa Local Government Area of Kwara State, claimed that the Hajj slots fraud scandal against him was orchestrated by his political enemies with the sole aim of killing his political career.
He denied getting involved in any form of fraud in his life and described the allegation as lacking in facts.
While accepting that he collected the sum of N8.7 million from some Muslims seeking to participate in the recently held Hajj, Babatunde explained that he failed those whom he sold slots to after things failed to work out between him and the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
The politician stressed that he had not been involved in any criminal act, arrested or tried by law enforcement agencies both in the Nigeria and abroad.
Assuring the victims that their money would be refunded after about five months of selling the fake Hajj slots to them, Babatunde, said, “Yes, we did sell Hajj slots to some people and things didn’t work out between us and the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). It’s a lot of back and forth and I did try my best. I have severally allayed their fears and told them their monies would be refunded.”
Maintaining that his political enemies were behind his ordeals, he said, “One of them (victims), his second wife is from Offa, and she is a supporter of one of my opponents in the chairmanship race in the APC. I understand this can be political but this is simply politics taken too far.
“We volunteered as humans to serve people, and this kind of scandalous and defamatory publications are not the ways to get rid of opponents.”
He denied claiming that Yasin was his biological father, stating, “I didn’t claim to be 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 other political bigwigs they mentioned. Alhaji (Yasin) called me last week on this and I clarified myself.”
“I didn’t run away from anyone. This Mr. Salimon Ganiyu, I communicated with him and we send each other messages all the time,” he further claimed.