The last has not been heard about the various Ponzi schemes defrauding unsuspecting Nigerians with fake financial returns. EMEKA NZE reports on one of such. Several Nigerians who unsuspectingly invested their money with a promise of huge Return On Investment (ROI) of 100% and above have petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to urgently probe and prosecute the company, Themap.ng and its director, Mr Ayanso Mma, for defrauding them of huge sums of money.
Blueprint gathered that some of the distraught investors had since taken their own lives while others attempted suicide when it became clear that the investment plans which were well publicised in both conventional and online media were a ruse.
They are therefore calling on the anti-graft agency to expedite action in the investigation and prosecution of the brain behind the massive fraud in order to recover their money running into billions of naira which they claimed was borrowed from different banks as loans.
Some of the investors who said they initially suspected the plans could be one of the notorious Ponzi schemes, took steps to ascertain the veracity of the ROI by visiting the Lagos and Abuja offices of the company, saying they actually discovered semblances of genuineness of purpose in the premises which gave the assurances that they could not be hoodwinked.
When their suspicion started
However, a twist was said to have been spotted last year when the management of the company started making excuses for the payment of accrued return on their investments.
Blueprint reliably gathered that an investor simply identified as Stephen committed suicide while several others including a student of Air Force Institute of Technology Kaduna, Enokela Monday, drank poisonous substance having been convinced that they had been defrauded.
Some of the investors who disclosed their names and the amount invested were Messrs Agbonifo Ohis Iyawere (N3,340,000), Victor Okinedo (N15,340,000), Chibueze Amuchie( N800,000), Bazuaye John and family (N25, 081,000) and Obiakor Elochukwu Pius and wife (N44,900,00).
Victim narrates ordeal
Narrating his ordeal, Enokela who said he invested only N1.5m with the hope of receiving almost N3m on return told Blueprint that he had attempted suicide because he borrowed some amount from friends and added it to his school fees to make up the N1.5m, but said now he has no hope of repayment, hence the contemplated suicide attempt.
“The business was introduced to my brother who stays in Dubai when he came visiting. I accompanied him to Ikeja area of Lagos 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 Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) for the investment.
“The total amount I paid into the company’s UBA account was N1.5 million. Today, my friend sees me as a bad person, saying 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 liquid substance, but for the help of my girlfriend who was around, I would have been a forgotten issue by now. She gave me enough palm oil that revived me. My brother could not return to Dubai, but 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 loan he collected from his friends over there. My family is restless, we can barely feed. Depression is setting in,” he lamented.
Detailed text of complain to EFCC
In an open letter to the EFCC chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, which was copied to the National Assembly’s Committees on Public Complaints and the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), some of the aggrieved investors noted that, “The unraveling 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, the Customer Relationship Management Investment (CRMI) claimed that the scheme 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 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, Mr Anyanso Mma, actually went underground, claiming to have been involved in an accident and continued hiding until it was learnt that EFCC men had arrested him randomly.
“EFCC officers held him in a detention facility at its Okotie-Eboh Office in 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 Mma, on several occasions clearly stated that he is not the enemy, but that 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.
The text of their letter reads further that, “Chairman sir, with about N7.5 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, Anyanso Mma admitted using some people’s bank accounts to receive funds since EFCC had restricted his bank accounts.
“He also admitted that he invested the funds in properties. It would interest you to know that on three occasions, the investors have offered to help Anyanso Mma release his properties which he claimed to have been seized by EFCC, but he only accepted verbally and never came forth with the conditions given by investors which include that he would 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.
“Sir, Anyanso Mma 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 Themap.ng and Anyanso Mma suddenly becoming incommunicado.”
They said, “While there is no doubt that EFCC has no collaboration with Mr Anyanso Mma and Themap.ng to do away with investors funds, the agency’s long delay to either prosecute Anyanso 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 aid 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 would repay the loans collected with collaterals. Many can’t afford to pay their rents 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.”
It’s under investigation – EFCC
Efforts to reach Mr Anyanso on his mobile phone were not successful as the lines could not connect. Even his wife, Chiamaka Mma’s, line was also switched off. But head, Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, when contacted simply quipped, “The much I can say is that the case is still under investigation.”