Rafiu Kehinde Ambali was undergoing his national youth service in Sokoto State in 2019 when he became ill. His disease culminated in a life-threatening fungi infection, so his friend-turned-guardian Taiwo Abdulkabir Adesina joined those who helped raise public awareness about the case. However, Abdulkabir has now run away with funds meant for the surgery.
As his illness worsened, Ambali became bedridden in 2020, so Abdulkabir, his friend, became his guardian. As his health deteriorated, his fellow corps members tried to help him; they crowd-funded for Ambali’s treatment.
“I served as a youth corps member in Goronyo Local Government Area in Sokoto, and Ambali was one of us. He came with a Batch B of corps members in 2019,” Faniyi Idris, another friend of Ambali’s, told FIJ.
“It was during our service year that doctors diagnosed Ambali with chronic diabetes, and he was subsequently transferred to the facility of Usman Dan Fodiyo Teaching Hospital (UDUTH), Sokoto. He was responding to treatment and we were hopeful that his illness would be properly managed.”
Idris told FIJ that the COVID-19 pandemic made doctors and nurses leave the hospital for a while, abandoning Ambali and other patients because they feared the spread of the viral infection within the wards.
“Over time, Ambali’s face began to swell,” Idris continued.
“His condition got worse because he had no expert care around at the time. His face got swollen to the extent that it burst. It was at this time that a fungi infection affected his face. He lost his right eye and a chunk of his face to the infection.”
$20,000 FOR SURGERY IN INDIA
Ambali needed special care, so he inquired about specialist hospitals that could remedy his infected face.
Aditya Agarwal, Director of Plastic Surgery at Medanta in India, estimated the cost of the surgery as between $14,000 and $20,000.
Ambali’s friends and family sought the money via crowdfunding. Idris, Abdulkabir, and some doctors who knew of Ambali’s health challenges managed to raise about N16,000,000 in donations.
ADESHINA’s N7M LOAN FROM DONATION
Abdulkabir had been very close to Ambali since the doctors diagnosed him with diabetes. Ambali needed a signatory to his bank account because of his health condition. He trusted Abdulkabir, giving him unfettered access to his bank account. He had little cause to think otherwise: they both hail from the same town, Ado-odo in Ogun State; and Abdulkabir was also studying for a second degree at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokot0 (UDUS).
In late 2021, Abdulkabir discussed his postgraduate study in Europe with Ambali, and told him how money was a challenge. Ambali said he was preparing for a plastic surgery at the time. The donations from friends and strangers had reached about N16,000,000.
Abdulkadir asked Ambali to lend him some money as proof of funds to secure his Study Visa to Czech Republic.
“Kabir discussed his postgraduate study in Europe (Czech republic) with the patient and pressured him to lend him some money for proof of funds,” Idris told FIJ.
“After declining at first, the patient later agreed when the pressure was much on him. He succumb to pressure and lent him N7million out of the N16million. Kabir promised to refund in two weeks after the interview at the embassy.”
Abdulkabir himself would later confess to this, saying in a phone communication with a friend, obtained by FIJ: “I asked Ambali to lend me N7,000,000 to keep in my bank account as proof of funds at the Czech Embassy. It was money people had donated to help him with his hospital bills. The embassy slated the interview for October 26.”
Ambali was not convinced.
“I’ve never taken a penny out of the donations to cater to anything other than my health. So I became worried for the sake of accountability,” he told FIJ.
“Although I was reluctant at first, I later agreed to lend him the money after he promised to place a debit restriction on his bank account.”
INVESTMENT IN CRYPTO DESPITE ‘KNOWING NOTHING ABOUT IT’
After collecting N7,000,000, Abdulkabir went for the interview and was granted the study visa. Ambali said he expected Abdulkabir to return the money to his bank account. He waited for days but nothing happened.
Abdulkabir would later confess in the audio: “When I returned from Abuja in November, I planned to return the N7,000,000 by the end of the month.
“In the middle of November I thought of making some profit from the money before returning it, so I decided to invest the money in cryptocurrency trading, even though I knew nothing about it.
“An acquaintance introduced me to cryptocurrency trading. He promised me there would be some profit as soon as the digital asset appreciates. I thought I would be able to use this to get some money to pay my debts. The whole process of securing admission in the Czech Republic school cost me a lot and I had borrowed some money.
“I invested the N7,000,000 and the digital asset depreciated in value. It was so bad that I sold it at a loss. I tried to recover by trading in other cryptocurrencies but I lost all of the capital.”
PHYSICIANS ACROSS CONTINENTS’ INTERVENTION
The time for Ambali’s plastic surgery came but Abdulkabir had not returned the N7,000,000. Luckily, Physicians Across Continents (PAC), a humanitarian group offering health care services, offered to help Ambali.
Physicians Across Continents’ team of doctors carried out the plastic surgery on Ambali’s face at the teaching hospital in Sokoto. Ambali only had to pay for surgical kit and materials used.
“It took me some days to recover. Upon recovery, I asked him about the money I lent him. He provided some flimsy excuses for going beyond the agreed date,” Ambali said.
THE N7.5M THEFT
Ambali’s struggle with chronic diabetes continued and he almost went blind in his left eye. Doctors referred him to Eye Foundation in Ikeja, Lagos, in January. The ophthalmologist prescribed Micromax-400, N-Mycin, and Moxifloxacin eye drop for Ambali.
On January 28, Ambali needed surgery after his face opened up again due to the fungal infection.
“There was an emergency operation to fix the opening. Immediately I was moved to the theatre, Abdulkabir cunningly used my mobile phone to transfer another N7,500,000 from my bank account to his own. He did this knowing that my functioning eye was at stake,” Ambali said.
“He subsequently deleted the bank’s email and SMS debit alerts to prevent me from knowing what he did.”
Ambali’s January surgery was successful. It was when he recovered that he noticed money was missing from his bank account.
When Ambali asked him, Abdulkabir would later admit he took the N7,500,000 from Ambali’s bank.
“He told me that he invested the initial N7,000,000 in cryptocurrency,” Ambali said.
Abdulkabir also admitted he tried to invest some of his employer’s money in cryptocurrency but he had no gains.
“My employer would later report me to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). EFCC held me in custody for about two weeks in December. Nobody knew about it at that time, not even my wife,” he claimed in the telephone recording.
“When Ambali needed to go in for another surgery I followed him to the hospital in Oshogbo. I took N7,500,000 from his account and I thought I could use it to get some profit. My intention was to get as much profit to recover the money I took from my employer’s business.”
More prescriptions came and the drugs were not affordable. Ambali needed Sandoz Posaconazole tablets to prevent the recurrence of the fungal infection. The drug cost $7,670 or N3,500,000, but he could not afford it. Meanwhile, Abdulkabir still had the N14,500,000 he took from the bank account.
Ambali begged him to return the money and this became a long battle to retrieve the funds.
“He released N500,000 on February 27 and N3,500,000 on March 15 back to my bank account. It was then I purchased Sandoz Posaconazole Tablet from Erie Health and Wellness Pharmacy, Canada.”
Ambali said Abdulkabir has returned N5,075,000 of what he took, leaving NN9,425,000.
“The medications I need should have been sorted out with the initial donation misappropriated by Abdulkabir,” said Ambali. “My health is at stake due to the financial distress caused by Abdulkabir’s actions.”
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