Saturday

MMM Nigeria: Deaths, Commotion in Banks Trail Ponzi Scheme

 
 
It looked trivial when Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM) Nigeria sprang up in November 2015. Barely one year into the scheme, the self-income generating platform, as some participants described it, has become so popular it was being advertised in places of work and worship centres.
 
Soon after, the reality seems to be manifesting, as the promoters suddenly announced the freezing of the programme for one month. How have contributors been reacting to this development? Isioma Madike - Nigerian journalist in this report also sought the opinion of the medics and clerics on the issue.
 
Ade stepped out of his luxury Range Rover Sport Utility Vehicle radiating opulence. As he walked towards his Omole palatial home in a majestic manner, exuding confidence of some yuppie millionaires to show everyone in his neighbourhood that he has arrived, his mobile phone rang. With the swag of a Nigerian moneybags, Ade picked his call.
 
What he heard was not pleasing to say the least. He was disturbed and started sweating profusely. He latter fainted and was rushed to a private hospital where he is still receiving treating.
 
As Ade regained consciousness in the hospital, he tried to inquire if what his friend told him on the phone was correct. “Yes, my brother,” said the doctor handling his case.
 
“MMM programme has been frozen till January ending. No more transactions until the partial ban is lifted. But, don’t worry; some of us are used to it. They did same last December,” added the doctor who revealed to Ade that he is also a participant. Despite these soothing words from the doctor, Ade, no doubt, has reason to be worried.
 
Although, he had made fortunes from the scheme, the lure of more money appeared to have pushed him into investing more into the scheme. He had gone out of his pocket to take from his company’s advert money in his care for a bounty returns.
 
Before the cookie crumbled, Ade had advanced with a total of N21 million into the programme. “What am I going to tell my cr editors? My company? Oh, I’m finished,” Ade exclaimed in astonishment.
 
Pathetic as his story may seem, Ade is not an isolated case. At the Delta State University, Abraka, a student was also said to have fainted but revived when the MMM news broke.
 
The “jambite” had invested his school fees into the programme hoping to make quick money that will catapult him into the elite group of the “happening boys” on the campus.
 
How wrong he was. His, has equally become a misadventure of sort, or so it seems. In Benin, capital of Edo State, a bride to be had also invested the money her groom to be had given her to shop for their coming wedding in the first week of February 2017.
 
Playing smart, the lady had wanted to surprise everyone by scooping more money to lavish on things not originally budgeted. Her action was not only miscalculated but has thwarted her plans of getting married soon and killed her joy.
 
Roughly two weeks to his wedding ceremony, a man identified simply as Adakole in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State, attempted to commit suicide by drinking insecticide after news filtered to him that MMM account was frozen.
 
The man was said to have invested N300,000 meant for his wedding in the scheme. It was gathered that Adakole, realising that his hope of smiling home with 30 per cent interest was no longer feasible before the wedding as he now risked losing everything, opted to take his life by consuming the poisonous brew.
 
A friend of the MMM victim, who refused to be named, told one of our reporters that his friend was still battling with his life at an undisclosed clinic in Otukpo where the incident occurred.
 
The friend, who said Adakole had called him to confirm if it was true that the scheme had “crashed” before attempting to take his life, also pointed out that he had contacted the fiancée who resides in Abuja to ascertain her state of mind.
 
When contacted, the Benue State Police Public Relations Officer, Moses Yamu, feigned ignorance as he said his command had not officially received such report.
 
Also in Warri, Delta State, one person was feared dead while many others were reportedly wounded in stampedes in various banks after the announcement of the suspension of the MMM accounts of about 3.3 million Nigerian participants in the scheme.
 
The contributors who received the news with shock were said to have rushed to the banks to verify the authenticity of the news. In the commotion, a man who was expected to cash N1.5 million of his investment, slumped and died when he could not withdraw the money.
 
Two other persons who also slumped in the same manner were quickly revived by sympathisers, while scores of others sustained various degrees of injuries in the melee.
 
As the drama played out, hoodlums took advantage of the rowdy situation to extort money and robbed customers. Meanwhile, medical experts have been reacting to the seeming confusion of MMM.
 
One of them, Nwaiwu Iheukwumere, said the devastating effects of MMM’s demise is currently evident in hospitals across the country with respect to the physical, mental,emotional and spiritual well-being of Nigerians.
 
“Mental homes are beaming with patients of different ages. This, of course, is associated with what has just happened with the MMM scheme. But, what we are seeing now may be small compared to what will happen when the scheme finally collapsed. It’s just a matter of time; it won’t take long before the bubble will burst,” he said.
 
He, nonetheless, listed other psychological effects to include anxiety disorders. People, according to him, will become anxious while apprehension will grow rapidly.
 
Anger and rage will also grow and the responses of people to questions will change swiftly. “People are likely to become more vulgar. It will trigger depression, loss of empathy and people will become gloomier.
 
There will also be loss of appetite and weight, attention deficit as people will no longer be at ease. Forgetfulness and schizophrenia will set in whereby you see people talking to themselves while taking a walk.
 
“Aside those, there will be suicidal tendencies and cases of murder will increase exponentially in which the fear and respect for God will diminish rapidly.
 
"Blurring to loss of visions will occur as well as vertigo and loss of balance. Above all, heart attack, hypertension, cardiac arrest, and frequent fainting attacks will soon become the order of the day.

"If these are not well managed, the result will be deaths and more deaths,” the doctor predicts. Just like Iheukwumere, another medical practitioner,
 
Chinyere Okoro, also believes that many people who are into MMM may come down with High Blood Pressure if the programme crashes.
He said: “If your state of mind is not alright, you might start having traumatic symptoms, you might be purging, sweating profusely.

“It does not mean you will die or go into shock; your heart will not stop working because of MMM. The only thing that will happen is that people will lose appetite and lose touch of reality.

"If you are not eating, you will lose weight. If you are diabetic or hypertensive and do take your drugs, nothing will happen to you because you are trying to manage it. It’s not like you will run mad. It depends on your state of mind but once your state of mind is affected, you can’t go to your normal routine activity and you will just be depressed,” Okoro said.
 
However, Bishop Stephen Ogedengbe, founder and head of Evangelical Ministries (Wisdom Chapel), located in Shasha, Lagos, told Saturday Telegraph that this is not the first time things like this will be taken to the house of God.
 
He was reacting to stories of many Christians engaging in the scheme. Ogedengbe, who likened MMM to money doubling and wonder bank, said that Jesus Christ had beaten up money doublers in His days. “The money doublers are those who are selling gold, soothsayers and those who are doing franchise in the house of God.
 
The house of God is for evangelism and for salvation. People who are in this attitude and this transaction of MMM, they are looking for magic, not miracle.
 
So, if you want to be rich, you have to be rich in the Lord and by the grace of God, through hard work and through prayer and genuine transaction.
 
“So, MMM is unrealistic profit and gains. The arithmetic is simple: it uses the money of A to pay B and B to pay C and C may not even get his or her own money eventually. It is manipulation and distractions. It’s making our nation to be lazier.

"We just need to go back to hard work, to creativity, little and smaller trading and entrepreneurship. We need to make our country to work, not sitting down and expecting money doublers who just came to play on the intelligence of Nigerians and vulnerable men and women.”
 
In like manner, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, also called the scheme gambling.
 
He said it would be unfortunate if Christians who supposed to know better were into it.“It’s really unfortunate that Nigerians are now so gullible to be deceived by mere 30 per cent incentive of some dubious individuals.
 
“For the pastors that are aiding and abetting the programme, they too are guilty. Or, is it their business to come and be preaching MMM to their congregation? Let people face the consequences of their foolish actions,” Okogie said.An Islamic scholar and lecturer at the Lagos State University, Ojo,
 
Prof. Ishaq Akintola, also said that Islam abhors gambling. “It’s not allowed.Islam says, verily indeed, it’s intoxicant; gambling is Haram, that is forbidden. The Quran says therefore, stay away from them, from alcohol, from gambling, from game of chance and this is a game of chance.

“In MMM, you put in your money, you don’t do nothing, you just sit down and expecting some money to roll in.I think it’s something greedy elements in society show interest in.

"It is very easy to deceive Nigerians because they are always interested in what is cheap. They want to reap where they did not sow. The 419s always target greedy people and if you are in such position, if you don’t eye what does not belong to you, the moment somebody starts telling you about millions, you will tell him, look, I am a government worker, salary earner, I have not gone into business. So, you can’t be talking about millions.
 
“The moment Nigerians start rebuffing people like that, the society will get better and people would not be cheated so easily.

"So, in this business, little amount gathered together by some people is being shared out to a few. Many are robbed to pay an infinitesimal minority maybe five or six people per day but millions are paying in and the directors laugh all the way to the bank every minute. The Quran forbids the amassing of wealth; the accumulation of wealth, greed.

It’s forbidden for Muslims to engage in things like this, it is Haram and the earlier they knew it, the better for all of us.”
 
However, against the backdrop of persistent warnings from government organs to Nigerians participating in the MMM, the founder of the scheme said Ponzi was not a scam.
 
In an open letter displayed on the page of all participants of the scheme, Sergey Mavrodi, said instead of the government killing the scheme, it should strengthen it to help Nigerians thrive and redistribute wealth.
 
House of Representatives, Central Bank of Nigeria and Security and exchange Commission, at different times, warned Nigerians, against investing in the scheme, saying doing so is risky.
 
In spite of such warnings, new converts are going into the scheme. Information on MMM Nigeria website, put the figure of those in the scheme to over three million Nigerians.
 
And Mavrodi is insisting that MMM was not shady and that all participants were informed of the risks involved at the point of registration. “You say that MMM is bad. Why? Yes, it produces nothing, but nothing gets out of the country either,” Mavrodi said.

“The money is just redistributed among the citizens of Nigeria. It gets from those who are richer to poorer ones, in this way restoring social justice. What”s wrong with that?” He continued: “You say that MMM is a scam.
 
"What is the scam here, if all members are warned in advance about all the risks, the possible and impossible ones? They know there are no investments at all.

The warning is a red text on a yellow background placed on most prominent place of the website.” On November 9, the House of Representatives resolved to probe the scheme after the adoption of a motion moved by Saheed Akinade- Fijabi (APC-Oyo).

“But the scheme’s structure, operations and intendment indicate otherwise as their clients can have multi-level structures under them and receive a bonus (in percentage) from each financial transaction of every participant in their structures,” he said.
 
He added that the scheme entered the country this year, by capitalising on the high level of unemployment and poverty to deceive unwary Nigerians into falling prey to their antics.
 
He claimed that the antecedents of the founders could not guarantee the security of investment. “It is worthy of note that the government of China banned the operations of MMM on the ground that it was a payment pyramid scheme without registration in the country and has the capacity to cause financial havoc in the system,” Fijabi stressed.
 
Critics of the scheme, according to Mavrodi, were not knowledgeable on how it works. He said, “You have repeatedly stated that “it should be investigated!.. researched!..” It means you know nothing about this system yet; you even haven’t understood how it works.” MMM is a global mutual aid community.
 
It is social financial donation exchange network in which a million community of people who have agreed to willingly extend financial helping hands to one another via donation are engaged in it. It is not a bank, an investment opportunity, a business but simply a community of people helping one another financially. Participants register for MMM and wait for 30 days.
 
They provide help and get help to grow by 30 per cent monthly. The scheme was launched in November 2015 in Nigeria but it got popular this year. Its philosophy is to financially empower its members who are committed to helping one another.
 
New members are often recruited into the scheme by the promise of 30 per cent monthly return on their investment and higher returns when they offer to assist members that ask for financial assistance.
 
Culled from: New Telegraph.

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