Lagos – The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has closed down offices of New Nation Finance House in seven states of the federation.
New Nation Finance House is one of the leading fund management companies in Nigeria.
Mrs Pamela Obioru, SEC’s Assistant Director and leader of the enforcement team, in Lagos on Wednesday said that New Nation Finance House was an illegally entity.
The closure affected the company’s offices in Lagos, Akure, Bauchi, Birnin Kebbi, Calabar, Kano and Makurdi.
The offices are to stop operations by Feb. 7.
Obioru said that 14 of the company’s officials had also been arrested by the police.
She said that the action was part of SEC’s statutory responsibilities of regulating the capital market and protecting investors.
Obioru said that the enforcement exercise was necessary to protect innocent investors from falling into wrong investment schemes.
“It is one of the routine exercises of the commission to clamp down on illegal investment operators in the country,” she stated.
Obioru said that Section 153 of the Investment and Securities Act (ISA) prescribed that operators of such firms must obtain licence and file returns to the commission.
In Bauchi, Malam Bala Mohammed, SEC’s enforcement leader, said that nationwide clampdown followed complaints from the investing public.
“We received intelligent reports about two months ago that a company called New Nation was involved in some dubious financial transactions.
“It was gathered that the company receives money from investors with promises of high returns on investment.
“Immediately, we swooped into action and carried out surveillance.
“We discovered that the company had branches in the 36 state of the federation, including the FCT, with headquarter in Port Harcourt.
“Our findings also indicated that the company was neither registered with the Central Bank nor with the SEC, the two financial regulatory bodies in the country,” he said.
Mohammed said that before any company could carry out any financial transaction; such a company must be duly registered and licensed by SEC or the Central Bank.
Answering questions from the commission’s agents, Tina Yohanna, the Branch Senior Client Analyst of New Nation in Bauchi, said that the company was not into financial transactions.
She said that all she knew was that the company, owned by Mr Charles Dukwe, was involved in youth and women empowerment programmes.
“Our main activity here is empowerment of youths with basic computer skills to enable them earn a living in a technologically driven world.
“We carry out computer training, free of charge after the beneficiary obtains our application form at a cost of N1,000.”
She said that about 100 people had registered for the computer programme.
Some of the clients told NAN in Bauchi that they knew about the company and its operations through their friends.
One of the clients, Saidu Mudi, said that he registered because he was told that the programme was free.
“I was at home when a friend of mind came and told me that a company was training youths on computer education for free, after obtaining an application form for N1, 000.
“After submitting the form, we were told that we will be trained on computer skills for free and that those who excel will be employed by the company while others will be given computers on loan to start a business,” he said.
Another beneficiary, Franca James, said she became interested when she was told that she would be trained on computer for free and at the end of the training would be given a computer set also for free.
In Birnin Kebbi, another SEC Enforcement Officer, Mr Babakura Mohammed, said that the commission’s enforcement and compliance department was on a national assignment to close financial institutions that did comply with SEC Rules 2013, as amended.
Mohammed said that the illegal operators’ target high networth individuals and companies in various states of the federation.
One of the arrested agents, Sahabi Emmanuel, said “the company targets women in oil business, and grey and strong’’.
Emmanuel, the New Nation company client analyst in the state, said he personally lured 21 unsuspecting members of the public into the illegal scheme.
According to him, a minimum monthly deposit of N8, 700 was collected from various women programmed to receive N10, 000 monthly dividends after 12 months contribution.
Also in Calabar, the Branch Manager of the illegal company, Mr Benjamin Effiong and an unidentified female staff of the company were taken into custody after SEC sealed their office.
Mr Alani Falade, leader of SEC enforcement team in Akure, advised the investing public to be wary of investment opportunities that looked “too good to be real.”
The team which confiscated the Akure branch operating equipment, after sealing the office, attributed the noticeable success profile of New Nation to poverty and covetousness.
NAN quotes the enforcement team leader of SEC in Kano, Mr Abubakar Bello, as saying that they had a court warrant from Abuja, to visit the company’s offices across Nigeria, search and seal them.
Bello told newsmen in Kano that that the company was operating an illegal collective scheme where members of the public were invited to make investments.
Mr Aminu Halilu, the Assistant Director, Legal Services of the commission, who led SEC’s team in Makurdi, also said that the exercise was carried out to protect innocent Nigerian investors.
Halilu said the commission had received complaints of illegal investment collections by the company from unsuspecting members of the public against the provisions of SEC.
Meanwhile, Mr Sonnie Elimihe, who claimed to be the company’s legal adviser in Lagos, vowed to challenge the commission’s actions in court.
Elimihe said that New Nation’s activities were duly registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), stressing that they were not into investment activities as alleged by SEC.
He said that the company was into buying and selling of blood pressure equipment under an initiative tagged ‘Grey & Strong’ to cater for elderly people from 50 years and above, among others.
The equipment and documents were seized at the company’s branches in the seven states while the branch managers and workers were handed over to the police. (NAN