By Evelyn Usman
They looked forlorn and despondent. One of them has already committed suicide while some narrowly escaped suicide attempts. They are still in a state of shock, unsure of what to do.
These are victims of an investment that went down the drain. More than 2000 Nigerians invested in a promised mouth-watering Return on Investment, ROI with a Lagos-based at different times.
Some of the victims told Crime Guard that an advertisement was placed by the company on radios, podcasts and through other social media influencers, calling for an investment of funds into the company’s various investment plans which included: logistics/bike investment, Customer Relationship Management Investment, CRMI; Education Virtual Reality for Students Investment, VR; Location Sponsorship Investment; Real Estate and Independent Investment.
They were expected to get a Return on Investment, ROI hovering between 60% to 110% depending on the investment plan and duration.
To ascertain the authenticity of the investment, the investors said they visited the company’s Ikeja and Lekki offices in Lagos and in Abuja office too, depending on the part of the country they resided.
They said some staff and few motorbikes were seen within the premises and along the road, which gave them the impression that they were investing in a proper company.
They said their confidence was further strengthened with the well-publicized remittances made to the earlier investors.
The first signal that indicated trouble ahead for the investors occurred last year, when the company, according to the investors, started giving excuses on payment of the promised mouth-watering Return on Investment, ROI.
When it finally dawned on them that it was a Ponzi scheme, one of the investors identified simply as Stephen, reportedly committed suicide.
The deceased was said to have taken a loan of undisclosed millions of naira from the bank which he invested into the company.
About three other investors, among them, David Oyase, also attempted to take their lives when they could not withstand the pressure from their banks, where they took loans.
Among those who invested millions into the company were: Agboniffo Ohis Iyawere (N3,340,000), Victor Okinedo (N15,340,000), Chibueze Amuchie( N800,000), Bazuaye John and family (N25, 081,000) and Obiakor Elochukwu Pious and wife (N44,900,00).
Another victim is Enokela Monday, a 100 level student of Air Force Institution of Technology, Kaduna. He disclosed that he invested N1.5 million, an amount meant to pay his school fees, rent and loan he collected from his friend, into the company.
Narrating his experience, he said, “ The business was introduced to my brother who stays in Dubai, when he came visiting. I accompanied him to Ikeja where he paid for the investment.
“He gave me money for house rent, school fees and pocket money. He also gave me some money for my mum and siblings.
“I begged him to add some money for me so that I could also pay for the CRMI promotion investment. He obliged. I invested all the money given to me into the company, in addition to a loan from my best friend in the Nigeria Defence Academy, to make the money mature for the investment.
“The total amount I paid into the company’s account was N1.5 million. Today, my friend sees me as a bad person, he thinks I fooled him.
“As I speak, I can’t afford my school fees, house rent and money to offset the loan I collected from my family including my friends.
“In my frustration, I drank some quantity of poisonous substance. But for the help of my girlfriend who was around, I would have been a forgotten issue. She gave me enough palm oil that revived me.
My brother could not return to Dubai. He stayed behind to monitor the situation. He said he can’t return to Dubai because some of the money he invested in the business was a loan he collected from his friends over there. My family is restless, we can barely feed. Depression is setting in”, he stated.
In a move to get their money back, some of the aggrieved investors have alerted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Presidency, the House of Representatives and Senate Committees on Public Complaint, and Securities and Exchange Commission, among other relevant government bodies.
In an open letter to the EFCC chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, some of the aggrieved investors said, “the unravelling of the suspected Ponzi scheme all started in the first week of October 2020, when suddenly, the company started giving excuses why it could not pay. At first, it stated that the Customer Relationship Management Investment, CRMI was oversubscribed and that the company wanted to refund the excesses before payment could resume (however, they still accepted funds from some investors).
“Later, it said that the SEC has ordered it to refund all CRMI investors. After that, it was one story or the other and the managing Director/Chief Executive Officer actually went underground, claiming to have been involved in an accident, and continued hiding until it was learnt that EFCC officers had arrested him.
Arrest by EFCC
Part of the letter the investors wrote to EFCC chairman read: “EFCC officers held him in a detention facility at its Okotie-Eboh Office, Ikoyi for about a month and then released him on December 22, 2020.
“Prior to his release, he gave investors his word that as soon as he is released, he would sell some of the assets he diverted investors’ monies into and pay up investors.
“To the chagrin of investors, after he was released, he stated clearly that EFCC instructed him not to meet or communicate with investors. This, the EFCC denied.
“Again, he stated that the EFCC has not unfreeze the company’s account as well as his personal account.
“It’s worthy to note that the Director, on several occasions, clearly stated that he was not the enemy. That rather, our common enemy being the EFCC, is the reason he has not paid investors.
“He was encouraging the investors to stage a protest against the EFCC at Okotie-Eboh Office, Ikoyi, to release his assets and unfreeze his company’s accounts and his personal account”.
“Chairman sir, with about 7.5 billion naira investors’ funds, still under his firm grip. EFCC Lagos has been on the matter for months without prosecution, claiming they’re still investigating him. We implore you to kindly act in the interest of the innocent investors”.
“Furthermore, the man admitted using some people’s bank accounts to receive funds since EFCC had restricted his bank accounts.
“He also admitted that he used investor’s funds to invest heavily in properties. It will interest you to know that on three occasions, the investors have offered to help him release his properties which he claimed to have been seized by EFCC, but he only accepts verbally, but never comes forth with the conditions given by investors.
“These conditions are as follows: That he will provide an MoU making commitments for payments, using the assets as collateral if he fails to make payments afterward; That he includes payment plan in this MoU and that he sends this MoU to our various lawyers to review before adoption”.
“He may just disappear with the entirety of the money should EFCC release the assets and unfreeze his account without the investors being carried along especially in the light of both his company and himself holding investors incommunicado.
“While there is no doubt that EFCC has no collaboration with him and his company( names withheld) to do away with investors funds, the agency’s long delay to either prosecute him or release/unblock the investors’ funds and the assets purchased with investors’ funds so as to alleviate investor’s plight is making a lot of investors believe otherwise”.
“We the investors are appealing to the Chairman of EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, to come to our aide as our only hope to get justice for the investors to ensure that every investors’ monies are refunded.
“Due to the current hardship in the country some investors have lost their lives through suicide, depressions, and shock on how they are going to pay back the loans they collected with collaterals, many can’t afford to pay their rent anymore, many have relocated to their villages and many have been sent out of schools due to tuition fees not paid and many marriages broken.
Efforts to reach the company’s MD/CEO, on his mobile line failed, as it was switched off. That of his wife’s was also switched off.
When the EFCC’s Head, Media and Publicity, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, was contacted, he said, “ The most I can say is that the case is still under investigation”.