Monday, 12 September 2016

Nigerians ignore SEC’s warning on online financial investment scheme

Director General Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); Mounir  Gwarzo (left), Director General Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN); Dr. Mansur Liman, and Executive Commissioner Legal and Enforcement, SEC, Sa’adatu Bello

Weeks after the Nigerian Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) warned the general public against falling prey to an online investment scheme tagged, “MMM Federal Republic of Nigeria,” many people remain immovable in their quest for its breadth-taking gains.

In a survey by The Guardian, most of the respondents, who were mostly students of tertiary institutions, described the scheme as a less-risky venture, which if successful, leaves participants smiling.

The MMM, according to information on its website, is a trending financial scheme which promises to create a community of people providing financial help to one another on the principle of gratuitousness, reciprocity and benevolence. Registered members help each other by providing a certain sum of money (as ordered by the operators of the scheme) and such paid amount is expected to yield a 30 per cent increase at the end of the month.

At any month end, members could withdraw their invested amount as well as the added interest through a similar means of being paid by another participant. By operation, the scheme, which platform is, has no central system or account.
However, SEC, in a recent statement on its website, disclosed that the system was a ponzi scheme, alleging that the facilitators were online fraudsters who promise high rates of return with little risk to investors.

It added: “The platform has embarked on aggressive online media campaign to lure the investing public to participate in what it called ‘mutual aid and financial network’ with a monthly investment return of 30 per cent.

“The operation of this investment scheme has no tangible business model, hence it is a ponzi scheme where returns are paid from other people’s invested sum. Its operation is not registered by the commission.”

It advised the public to shun the scheme.

But The Guardian survey revealed that virtually all participants in the scheme have benefited from it, thus making it very difficult for them to quit despite the red alert of SEC.

One of the participants, Ata Efe, who was apparently marketing the scheme, told The Guardian that she reaped N73,000 (30 per cent interest and extra membership bonus) having invested N50,000 in her trial month. She said many of her friends had been participating in it, adding that one of them recently acquired a N1.2 million plot of land through the scheme.

Maryjane Okojie, another resident in Asaba, acknowledged the warning of SEC but dispelled any possibility of quitting the scheme, which has given her a cumulative gain of N200,000.

She said: “I suspect that this may turn out to be a scam someday, but with the current economic situation, I cannot stop investing until the system crashes.”

The gains of the scheme may not be the only reason for participants not heeding the fraud alert of SEC, as some religious leaders are allegedly canvassing support for it.

One of the respondents in the survey, a fresh Mass Communication graduate of Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-uku, disclosed that a clergyman in one of the orthodox churches in the town (names withheld), advises youths in the church to make savings and invest them in the MMM scheme.

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