Ekiti loan saga: Unmasking fleeing scammers

•Victims recount tales of sorrow

•We won’t leave any stone unturned— Govt

•We’ve launched an investigation—Police

By Rotimi Ojomoyela

FOR Ekiti State government, it is a race against time to unmask the fraudsters that stole into the state like the proverbial thief in the night, fleecing many of their hard-earned money and disappeared into thin air, leaving behind wailing, tears, sorrow and gnashing of teeth.

Over 1000 Ekiti indigenes had fallen prey to scammers and risk having a bleak Christmas, unless the state government waves the magic wand, arrest the fleeing fraudsters, recovers victims’ money and put them behind bars.

Another wonder bank scam
A micro-credit firm, Atlas Initiative Scheme Investment, had approached unsuspecting petty traders and artisans in Ado-Ekiti with mouth-watering loan offers but vanished into the thin air after defrauding them of their hard-earned money running into millions of naira

As the news of their disappearance filtered into town, hordes of agonizing victims of the scheme besieged their office, located at Adamolekun Estate in Adebayo area of Ado-Ekiti.

They were, however, surprised to find the office under lock and key just as phones of the operators had been switched off.

We won’t leave any stone unturned— Govt

But the state government vowed not to leave any stone unturned until it unmasked and prosecute those behind the scam.

The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Wale Fapohunda said: “We have their pictures, we are going to publish their faces, it is a scam, the faces of those Directors are not the real people, and they just put them forward. We have asked our men to seal off the offices they are using.

“So, if they seal that place, the owner of the house would have to come and tell us whether they paid them in cash or in a bank account, then the police can trace that.

But for us, we are going to publish their pictures. Because we asked their victims if they took pictures with them during their training.”

Vanguard gathered that this step became necessary because the Directors of Atlas Investment refused to honour the meeting called by the state government on December 18, 2020, to clarify the complaints against it, a situation that gave rise to the suspicion that the scheme was a scam designed to defraud unsuspecting citizens of the state.

READ ALSO: FG discloses $2.5bn loan from China to complete AKK gas pipeline project

Targeted victims and mouth-watering loans
Their targets were traders, pepper sellers, meat sellers, mechanics and provision sellers.

They were told that the loan was meant to expand their business and enable them to be financially independent; an idea that the unsuspecting people easily bought.
Vanguard also gathered that the victims were asked to form a cluster group for easy access and distribution of the loans among members once it is available.

Some of the victims, who spoke to Vanguard, said the fraudulent thrift firm gained their confidence with a successful daily contribution plan following which they later introduced a soft loan scheme purportedly to assist them to grow their businesses or crafts, a proposal which appeared tempting and promising

It was only natural for them to jump at the offer of soft loans in view of the flexible repayment and interest plan.

But unknown to them, they were on a long roller coaster ride.

How we were swindled—Victims

One of the victims said: “They said the loan firm was owned by a rich person abroad who had vowed to assist Ekiti people, particularly women with a soft loan to ensure we have good lives on the condition that we would repay gradually. They assured us the loan would be continuous on steady repayment.

“They asked us to form ourselves into groups; we gathered people. That was how we arrived at 14 members in our group. Those of us who wanted N100, 000 loans were asked to obtain N1, 000 forms, N1, 500 forms for those who wanted to access N150, 000 and seekers for N200, 000 obtained forms for N2, 000.

“Those of us for N100,000 loans were asked to pay N15,000 each to qualify, while those for N150,000 were billed N22,500 and those eyeing N200,000 loans were charged N30,000 to qualify. We paid in piecemeal. They said they would give us the loans after five weeks gestation period and they fixed December 1 through 4 for disbursement of the loans to us.”

Another victim, a 42 years old cloth seller at the Rosebud area of Ado Ekiti, Bidemi Ojo, said she had a premonition about the scheme when one representative of Atlas investment, she identified as Promise, came to canvass her for the loan scheme.
Ojo said: “I was at my shop with some persons when Promise and one lady came. He said they were from a micro-finance outfit which had just begun operations in Ado-Ekiti and out to give traders loan for Christmas sales. I said I was afraid of things like that in view of what some traders once experienced at Bisi Market, but he said their organisation was credible.

“I even placed a curse on whoever would make away with my money, and he said ‘amen’ to it. He urged us to begin the transaction with a daily contribution. The 12 of us, who constitute the Fiyinfoluwa Group, started daily contributions with them and

they were forthcoming.
“Three weeks after, they said their forms for the loan had arrived, I was ill that time, but he came to my house with the forms for all members of our group. The 12 of us gave him N12, 000 for our forms. He told us our loans would be disbursed in five weeks’ time.

“Later, he came that our loans were ready and that we should make available our money to qualify for the credit facility. We gave him the money. For me, I paid in instalments; I initially paid N5, 000, then I paid N17,500 balance when their boss came to my shop (shows the counterfoil as evidence of payment).

“They fixed December 3 for disbursement to our group members. But on Sunday, November 29, a sister called me to call our representative, Promise, saying other groups had not been able to reach their representatives. I felt weak and sighed. I called Promise but he had switched off his phone. We started networking and found out it was the same situation everywhere.

“That was how we started looking for them. Some of them were residents at the Ajowa area of Ado Ekiti, but we couldn’t locate the house and we resolved to go to their office on Monday, November 30. When we got to their office, they were nowhere to be found. Since then, all efforts to get across to Promise on phone had been futile.”

The cloth seller, who said she used money from the contributions of some person in her care, said: “My thought was that I would refund it on getting the loan and use the balance for my business. It is a devastating blow. Christmas is here now; I cannot get clothes to sell because I don’t have money.

“I have been home since and I have fallen sick over the matter. I went into the loan scheme to grow my business to avoid partaking in social vices. I have always borrowed to sell and I refund such.

It was the same for a 35-year-old mother of three, a raw food seller, who preferred anonymity.

Narrating her experience, she, alongside other members of her Itesiwaju Group, lost N160, 000 to the fraudulent activities of the loan scheme operators.

Lamenting, she said: “It really affected me. It was the money I use for my trading.

“Everything has been difficult for me; I attempted this scheme to get funds to up my business since there was no assistance. Our hopes were high with the monthly repayment plan. But now that they had taken everything, we are on ground zero. They have injured us.”

The mother of three said: “Over 1000 persons were at the seminar. This means those scammed now are far over 1000.”

Similarly, a beer parlour operator, belonging to the 12-member Olamiposi Group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Money trapped from our group ranged from N25, 000; N20, 000; N21, 000; N7, 500 to N30, 000 and those of us who paid N15, 000.

“I lost N17,000 (form N1,000, assurance N1,000 and qualification N15,000) to them. It is the money I managed my business with that they took away. Since then, I have not had money to buy fish for pepper soup. I have been buying one crate of Goldberg, one crate of coke. My business has been suffering.”

Another victim, a 39-year-old mechanic, Sunkanmi Ogundiya, who sought the loan facility to procure a cab as a means of diversification of his source of income, had tales of sorrow to tell lamenting that he lost N78, 000 to the scammers.

Ogundiya said: “They came to me about four months ago that they were into daily contributions and that their loan facilities were dependent on how stable and reliable daily contributors were. I started contributions with them and they were giving me my due money.

“Later, they told me I had qualified for loans and I opted for N300, 000 facilities. They said I would have to pay N45, 000 to qualify. I sourced the amount and paid. My last contribution of N30, 000, which I was entitled to at the end of November, was still with them and they disappeared with everything.

“They fixed December 1 for us for disbursement. I am disappointed because I had hopes that I would get the money on that date. When their numbers were not going on December 1, I went to my colleague who said we should go to their office.

“When we got there, all we could see were a sea of heads and people wailing, crying and rolling on the ground outside. I froze in the car, I could not alight. I was dumbfounded and started wondering whether it was real or I was dreaming. I was sad my hope was dashed.”

We’ve launched an investigation—Police

Speaking with Vanguard, the Commissioner for Police, Ekiti Command, Mr. Tunde Mobayo, said his command has launched an investigation into the matter, saying, “we are still expecting the complainants to come to police physically.”
1)•Atlas savings and loans passbook
2)•Office of the Atlas Investment
3)•Mrs Bidemi Ojo: Another victim
4)•Sunkanmi Ogundiya: A victim

Vanguard News Nigeria

The post Ekiti loan saga: Unmasking fleeing scammers appeared first on Vanguard News.

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