By Ehichioya Ezomon
The social media is awash with “financial schemes,” some of them invitingly mouth-watering as to attract the unwary, who, indeed, are the targets of the promoters of such duplicity.
Nigeria, with a near down-and-out economy, earning, unenviably, the epithet, the “world poverty capital,” has created a pool of desperate citizens for foreign and local scammers to prey on.
So, various schemes have fleeced Nigerians, the most infamous of the lot being the MMM (Mavrodi Mondial Movement/Moneybox), a Russian company that “perpetrated one of the world’s largest Ponzi schemes of all time, in the 1990s.”
The MMM, called “financial pyramid,” was promoted by Sergei Mavrodi, a financial fraudster and criminal, who died in March 2018 in Moscow, complaining of weakness and pain in his heart.
The scheme, which berthed in Nigeria around 2015/2016, made tens of thousands of Nigerians richer, and more thousands, if not millions of others, who lost their investments, poorer.
Amid reports of some losers committing suicide, for failure to refund loans they took for staking, and others facing prosecution for stealing millions of their employers’ money to invest, the local promoters of the dubious venture swam in affluence, with one reportedly squandering N5 billion in a marriage “bash” in Abuja.
While the MMM promised returns on investment within one month, and operated a system of taking from one investor to pay another, like the fabled “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” the new Ponzi schemes in Nigeria flaunt doubling of investors’ funds within hours.
Let’s narrow the discussion to one “Opay Investment Funds” (Opay IF), which claims that the “fund managers” engage in Crypto-currency trading that yields triple returns within five to six hours.
Operating a WhatsApp site, the scheme, with one “Emeka Nwafor” (real or imagined) as head of admin, tries to exorcise the MMM ghost, and the charge that it’s a scam, by soliciting “trust” from the risk-taking participants, thus:
“Please this program is different from MMM and all the rest because you don’t need referrals. Most people think the program is a scam because you have never done it before. I’m not going to blame anybody. I understand this is Nigeria, everyone need(s) to be careful. But what I promise you, by the grace of God, you people will never regret anything in Jesus name. For those who are still doubting it, you can leave the group. Also God bless you all.”
Still on the scamming allegation, the scheme exhorts: “We stand for justice. We are real… We don’t scam and we will never do that… If you know you are here and you know we have scammed you before, come and say it… If you know you have invested in this platform and you were not paid, is (sic) time to tell everyone.”
Then, this snake-charming tactic of “Trust Opportunity For Better Tomorrow.” With the index finger pointing, the scheme says: “Remember these today: Money does not respond to qualifications. Otherwise the wealthiest people should have been Ph.D holders.
“Money does not respond to age. Otherwise the world’s oldest twins would have been the richest. It is not about your degree, it is all about what you do after the degree.
“Have you noticed that the 1st class degree holders are not the richest neither are the 3rd class degree holders the poorest. There is more to being wealthy than education. The most important thing is mindset and the next thing is a commitment to self discipline. The only person holding your key to success is YOU.”
The scheme explains, as follows, how it trades in “Cryptosystem currency,” to triple the invested fund, keep one-third of the returns and payout two-thirds to the investor:
“They (fund managers) trade with Cryptosystem currency here like Bit coin, Kuwait currency. They make 3 triple of your investment and send you two part (two-thirds) and they benefit one part (one-third).
“For example, if you invest with 200,000 within 5 hours to 6 hours, they make profit of 600,000, then send 400,000 to you, then profit of 200,000 is for the coin base company. You pay directly to them and they credit you directly.”
In other words, the minimum investable fund of N50,000 returns a N100,000 profit (N150,000 in total), with the investor paid a N50,000 “profit” while N50,000 goes to the fund operators.
Perhaps, this admittance of sharing the returns 50-50 between the investor and the fund managers, is one of the captive tactics employed by the scheme to convince people to invest.
Another attracter is the “testimonies” by investors, claiming to receive “double returns.” Hundreds of testimonies come from across the country in short posts or videos, praising “Emeka Nwafor” for turning around their fortunes. Two examples:
One participant posted on May 1, 2021, at 5:32 am, to announce his receipt of a credit alert for N3,000,000, with a display of the screen-grab of the payment and his phone number. The prospect says:
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am from Anambra State. I just want to testify about Mr Emeka Nwafor. I have been trading with him for 2 months plus and he has turned my life (around). He is an Account Manager with a difference. He saved me and my family with the profits I got from him when I am (sic) about to lose my house to Bank. Honestly speaking, I can boast (that) with the earning from him, I don’t depend on my salary anymore. I am living the comfortable life with my lovely family. All thanks to Mr Emeka.”
Another “beneficiary,” who doesn’t disclose his state of residence, posted on April 30, 2021, at 6:17 am, displaying a screenshot credit alert of N1,000,000 and his phone number, writes:
“Honestly, I really want to appreciate Mr Emeka Nwafor, who has brought so much joy into my life. I am so happy I made the right decision to invest under your amazing platform.
“Life is so good and it just keeps getting better as I keep getting my returns on investment… I can’t really explain how I feel each time I receive profit from your platform. Am blessed, really grateful for this wonderful opportunity. My regards to you and your entire team.”
What surprises one is that the screenshots of the “credit alerts” displayed by the “investors” on their returns, ranging from N100,000 to N3,000,000, are from approved banks operating in the country. But are the credit alerts really payouts by the scheme?
Prior to investing, participants fill out a registration form containing “name, account name, account number, bank name, amount, your active number, your mode of payment: mobile transfer, ATM transfer, cash deposit, POS transfer.”
And this caveat: “Note the account details you provide is the account you are going to receive your payment into.” You wonder which accounts the scheme would’ve paid the “returns” into!
LAST LINE: Next: How I decided to invest, and my encounters with “Emeka Nwafor,” Head Admin Manager of “Opay Investment Funds,” who’s persuasive and yet combative, if he senses you’re prying into the “authenticity” and “secrets” of the scheme.
Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.