Ponzi schemes: DSS, Police move in as Ebonyi depositors lose N500 million

Some operators of non-registered empowerment, employment and charity organisations in Ebonyi State are now with Department of State Services (DSS) and police for allegedly dumping over 12,000 persons in the state over N500 million in their operations.

This is even as Chairman of 13-man Committee set up to probe the matter alleged that he was offered N20 million bribe and brand new car for compromise and that he has been facing lots of threats for refusing the offer. The suspects were arrested following complaints to the state Ministry of Human Capital Development and Monitoring by some of the victims who besieged the ministry seeking for its intervention to enable them recover their monies three months after they paid various amounts to the empowerment and charity organisations which promised them up to N1000% of their investments.

The leaders of the empowerment and charity organisations were picked up DSS and police at the Ministry of Human Capital Development at the weekend when the ministry invited them over the matter with the victims in attendance. The operators, however, denied the victims and ever operating such schemes which led to their immediate arrest by the security agents for investigation.

Medical doctors, lawyers, widows, students, traders, wives of politicians and artisans subscribed to the ‘empowerment’ in order to pay school fees this month. Some of the said empowerment schemes are operating from Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital (AE-FUTHA). One of the victims, Okeh Ann Uju, who is a trader in Abakaliki Main Market said she subscribed the first one with the sum of N30,000, the second one N10,000, third one N50,000 and the fourth one with N25,000.

“In all these, I have not received any proceeds from any of the subscriptions and I need my monies back since the time they promised to give us the proceeds. They told us that if you invest N5,000 you will be paid N50,000 in return. I had to subscribe to it because I have financial challenges and I need money to upgrade my business and pay my children’s school fees this September. The time they promised to pay us the return on our investment has elapsed and I heard the thing has issues.

“I was supposed to get my own returns on 9th of August for the first one, the second one 12th, the third one 22 and the fourth one on the 28th. I have not received any of the proceeds, so I need my monies back,” she lamented. Another victim, Ekene Nworie, a student of Ebonyi State University said he put in N200, 000 in the scheme in July to enable him raise his school fees and pay his house rent; but has not received return on his own investment.

He noted that it was one of his friends that introduced him to the scheme. When contacted, the state Commissioner for Human Capital Development and Monitoring, Chief Uchenna Orji explained that ministry was inundated with very strong reports about the activities of money doublers and fake empowerment organisations who recently infiltrated into the state and duped unsuspecting members of the public and that he had to set up a committee to investigate the reports which according to him turned out to be true.

“So, on the basis of those reports, we had to set up Human Capital Development Taskforce headed by a Cleric Rev. Obumneme Joseph. It is a 13-man taskforce to crack down on these fake empowerment organisations. In addition to their mandate, I asked them to also help me crack all empowerment and employment opportunities especially by governmental organisations and development partners. So, the committee has two key mandates. “Incidentally, the committee has swung into action and they were able to bring in very serious organisations that came into Ebonyi State and started swindling innocent citizens of this state, swindling the unsuspecting members of the public especially the widows, students, traders, civil and public servants a; telling them that if you bring N50, 000 you will be given N500,000 in a month and if you bring in N5,000 you will receive N50,000 within a month and vice versa.

“And from our findings, these people have defrauded our people of more than N200million and this is what government cannot sleep and watch it happen in Ebonyi State,” he stated. He regretted that the Chief Medical Director of AE-FUTHA, Dr. Emeka Onwe Ogah, could not honour the meeting he was invited by the ministry over the involvement of some of the staff of the hospital in the scandal.

The CMD, however, refused to speak to Sunday Telegraph on the matter. But his Media Consultant, Emmanuel Okechukwu said the Commissioner had no right to summon him and that he had announced invitation of the CMD first on radio before formally inviting him. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the committee, Rev. Obuneme Joseph, yesterday raised the alarm over alleged threat to his life. He alleged that he was offered N20 million bribe and brand new car to compromise, which he refused and since then he had been receiving threatening phone calls.

“One of the operators of the groups called me and told me to meet him at Fatilami Park here in Abakaliki and receive N20 million and brand new car but I told him no, that I can’t receive such offer. “Since then I have been receiving phone calls from lines I don’t know threatening to deal with me if I don’t leave the matter since I refused to accept their offer. My life is in danger,” he said. News Express