By PETER EGWUATU

The recent closure  of the offices of the New Nation, an illegal operator in the Nigerian Capital market by the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC is not only commendable but should serve as a deterrent to others who are in the  business of cheating people.

Ms Arunma Oteh, DG, SEC
Ms Arunma Oteh, DG, SEC

Also, the SEC had recently clamped down on Sterling Registrar, a subsidiary of Sterling Bank Plc over share scam and manipulation of share allotment of Japaul Oil & Maritime Services Plc . Consequently, its license was revoked and penalties imposed on the officers involved.

The SEC, in its determination to protect investors in the market took the bold step to  revoke the license of Sterling Registrar. It also closed down the offices of New Nation nationwide to prevent innocent investors from falling prey to a company that was not  registered with the commission and performed illegal fund manager services.

The Acting Director,  Enforcement Unit of SEC, Mr. Eric Elujekor, described the organization as an illegal fund manager that is not registered with the SEC but existed with the sole aim of deceiving the public. He disclosed that the SEC had previously sealed off some offices of the company in Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Sokoto States in the past.

According to Elujekor, “It is a company that has so many offices. When we got knowledge of what they say they want to do, we invited the person in charge to tell us what he was doing.

He came here and told us that he had 21 pillars, that was the term he used. And those pillars represented a project that they intended to do and all the pillars were under a conglomerate they called New Nation.

“What he said is that at the end of the day when they are able to get people to participate in these pillars, Nigeria will be a New Nation.

All the pillars are operating under different names like Women in oil which is a limited liability company on its own, another is called Global Defender which is a limited liability company . We have Grey and Strong which is also a limited liability company”.

Speaking further, he said the exercise was carried out to ensure that no activity would take place in their premises again and to as a point of fact inform the general public to be wary of such organizations.

Investigations revealed that the company had many offices in almost all the states of Nigeria and that was why the Director General,Arunma Oteh directed that all the offices be sealed off.

The Director said when SEC got wind of the activities of the company, it invited the person in charge to tell the commission what he was doing. “He came here and told us that he had 21 pillars and that was the term he used.

And those pillars represent a project that they intend to do and all these pillars are under a conglomerate they called New Nation. They have 21 pillars under this New Nation outit. What he said is that at the end of the day when they are able to get people to participate in these pillars, Nigeria will be a New Nation” he said.

What prompted SEC to take action

There was a newspaper report credited to the Presidential Spokesperson, Reuben Abati that President Jonathan has not approved any scheme for the advancement of women in oil. It was a scam and   the people were just using the name of the President. That was when the commission went out to investigate the activities of the company.

Elujekor disclosed that by the time officials of the commission got their brochure, they admitted that women could register to participate in the oil sector of the economy and they were required to pay N12, 000 and more. “We sought to find out what the money was all about.

Is it an investment? So if people are paying that amount, are they now members of this company? What is this all about? Because apart from this, N12, 000 they are supposed to register again. To register is N3, 000 before you pay the N12, 000. We didn’t not know what this collecting money from people is for,” Elujekor said.

He  further said that in November when officials of the commission went to Port Harcourt, one of the signatories who is the mother of the Managing Director of the company said they were not collecting N12, 000 but reduced it to N8, 000 which was for training and not investment.

How SEC arrested New Nation Officials

In Lagos, Pamela Obioru, SEC’s Assistant Director and leader of the enforcement team, described the activities of New Nation Finance House as illegal.

Ms. Obioru said that 14 of the company’s officials had also been arrested by the police. She said the action was part of SEC’s statutory responsibilities of regulating the capital market and protecting investors. The official 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. Ms. Obioru said that Section 153 of the Investment and Securities Act (ISA) prescribed that operators of such firms must obtain license and file returns to the commission.

In Bauchi, Bala Mohammed, SEC’s enforcement leader, said the 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,

How Nigerians fall for their tricks

Elujekor believes that Nigerians still fall for the tricks of these operators because they are too gullible and everyone  wants quick money.

He said that the fact that times are hard does not help matters as when somebody is told that his money can be doubled in six months, he finds it difficult to resist it because he actually needs the money to attend to one or two things.

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.”

What happens next

Elujekor disclosed that the intention of the exercise is to ensure that the offices or premises would be sealed off and no activity would take place there and to actually inform the general public that they should stop patronizing the company.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.