*…denies reports of engaging in Ponze scheme
By Adeola Badru, IBADAN
An agribusiness expert and founder, FarmKonnect limited, Mr. Azeez Oluwole, has absolved himself from reports in some media that his firm has defrauded its investors millions of naira.
Oluwole, a retired Naval Officer, said this while briefing journalists at the company’s headquarters in Ibadan, over the recent wind attack on the company’s snail farm situated in Ekiti.
He described the incident as unfortunate and natural disaster, which he said had thrown a huge stone into the company, thereby affecting its success story in the year 2021.
However, Oluwole who was optimistic that the year 2022 would be a great year of harvest for the investors and stakeholders, called for patience and supports from all the partners over the delay in payment as planned which he attributed to the unforeseen wind attack.
He stressed that the online publication about delay in payment of ROI to partners who had invested in the company’s snails village located at Ekiti state was true.
He added, it became imperative for him to clear the air on insinuations being circulated that the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi was also involved, adding that the governor has no involvement.
He said: “The year 2021 had been a challenging year for us, though last year, the impact of the COVID 19 was minor but, this year the company had its shares of the impact hugely.
“The first thing I want to say is that FarmKonnect is not a company that is created just as a crowd-funding/crowd-funded company (though we ran 3 crowd-funded project, and we regret them).
“We run what we called Agricultural Real Estate, which is our brain child on the African Continent.
“People buy property which are control farming system or farming facilities (Not land) and are kept on our farm for us to manage, they can also have it on their farms.
“In this structure, the ownership of the facility as well as the associated horizon risks are with the investor even though we manage it for them, (we only own the operational risks when we manage the farms) but in order to protect the investors, we go extra mile in getting insurance protection for all our clients.
“And things we cannot control on such investments, we indemnify ourselves on it and spell it out to the investors on the agreement. Unfortunately, many people do not read their agreements.
Regardless of this indemnity, we still promised our esteemed partners that we would ameliorate/ eradicate the losses, if we had enough time to farm the assets we have acquired.
“This year started with a Force Majeure, after we launched the snail village in Ekiti State, and for the first time in four years, we had a wind disaster and lost over 300 million naira worth of equipment and over 70 million naira worth of snail were killed.
“After this had happened, we ran to our insurance provider, laid the complaint, they inspected the site and reported that we have a claim.
“How do you have a claim if there was no incidence and insurance to cover such?
“In July, the claim was paid, but over 80 Million Naira less than the amount filed for, (this is verifiable). Regardless, we are grateful to Consolidated Hallmark for coming through for us on this particular project.”
The founder revealed that after the entire process, the company reached out to the partners to update them on the issue at hand, what has been done so far and the steps taken in order to ensure the stabilization of the project.
“We had meetings with our partners and investors to inform them on what we are going through and to assuage their fears.
“We also mentioned the actions taken, including the upgraded designs which were refabricated in China and on the way to Nigeria.”
“We are optimistic that within the next six months, the snail farm would be fully back on but regardless, we will have sorted our partners and re-stabilize their revenue calendar.
“We know that we would lose one year on the 5,000 sqm that was damaged, so we built 10,000 sqm in replacement so that we can recover from the losses within a maximum of 24 months.”
While confirming the delay in the payment of ROI to the investor as alleged in the some online publications, he attributed the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic, travel restrictions which also affected the company’s expatriates from coming into the country, alongside logistics problem as major factors responsible for the delay.
He, however, disclosed that the company is presently doing all in its ability to make sure that they clear up the all the backlog of payments that were due.
Oluwole, however, emphasised that that FarmKonnect remains focused and would continue to deliver on its commitment to investors and the stakeholders.
He added that the company will open its doors for partnership in few days since it has gathered all its prerequisite facilities and has put in place measures to forestall the reoccurrence of the last challenges.
Below are images from the farm showing the damages: