By Olakunle Olafioye and AYO ALONGE
Still smarting from the abrupt suspension of the most popular ponzi scheme in Nigeria, Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM), many desperate Nigerians may have resorted to similar schemes in their bid to get quick and mouthwatering returns promised by the operators.
Over three million Nigerians who subscribed to MMM scheme were thrown into panic and confusion when the operators of the scheme announced a temporary freezing of the scheme, citing heavy workload on the platform and negative attacks from the government and media.
The message, which assured subscribers of its return on January 14, 2017, promised to pay every subscriber as soon as the suspension on the scheme is lifted.
But while uncertainties continue to trail the return of the scheme as promised by the operators, findings by Sunday Sun indicate that many Nigerians have signed up for similar ponzi schemes which, like MMM, lure subscribers with quick and mouthwatering returns.
One of the ponzi schemes some desperate Nigerians now subscribe to is Ultimate Cycler. This is a money-doubling set-up, which promises larger returns when user ‘A’ signs up with the sum of N12,500 to a fellow member, known as an upliner. When the deposit or ‘donation’ is approved, the Ultimate Cycler system registers four other users under user ‘A’, who then pay N12,500 to User ‘A’ resulting in N50,000. Basically, User ‘A’ pays N12, 500 and gets N50,000 in return.
When User ‘A’ gets four users under him or her, the system upgrades User ‘A’ to grade 2 level. At this level, User ‘A’ is expected to pay N25,000 from his or her N50,000 gain to another grade two member. After which the system automatically puts 16 people under user ‘A’ who will then pay user ‘A’ N25,000 each. At this stage, User ‘A’ gains N400,000.
A similar ponzi scheme many Nigerians now sign up for is iCharity Club, which is a member-to-member donation platform for members to help other members in a systematic way. By using the platform, members can give and receive donations from each other.
The scheme, which has a semblance of MMM in operation, requires a member to make a donation first, after which he or she is eligible to receive donations from other members.
The scheme operates on 10 different grades. At grade 1, a new member is required to donate $20 alongside four other subscribers. The total sum ($100) is given to a member who is expected to reciprocate the gesture until every member benefits and progresses to grade 2, where the donation is raised to $40 per subscriber. At this stage 25 members are expected to contribute $1,000 ($40 per participant) to the beneficiary.
The amount payable at each of the stages increases just as donors increase in multiples of five. A subscriber on grade 10, which is the highest grade donates maximum of $1,670 alongside 9,765,624 to others, and receives $16,308,593,750.
This scheme allows its subscriber to choose who he or she wishes to pay their contributions to. However, the ‘help’ is provided on peer-to-peer basis.
iCharity allows its users to decide who they choose to pay to, unlike in MMM where the system matches one subscriber with another.
There is also the E-Cooperative. This scheme operates on a peer- to-peer payment platform where members pay each other.
Operators of the scheme claim there is no central account where money is paid and disbursed, rather, members pay directly to each other in order of uplines and downlines
Similar in operation to iCharity, subscribers to E-Cooperative operate at four different stages. At stage 1, an interested person registers with N1,000 and gets paired automatically with another member from any part of the country to whom he pays N1,000.
Upon the confirmation of payment by the recipient, the member is matched by the system to receive payment of N1,000 from four other members, making a total of N4,000.
After receiving the N4,000, the member gets upgraded to level 2 and will be required to pay N 2,500 (from the N4,000 received from level 1) to a member on level 2. When the payment is confirmed, the member is matched to receive N2,500 from 16 persons, which amounts to N40,000.
At level 3, the member pays N5,000 (from the 40,000 naira received from level 2) to another member. When the payment is confirmed, he or she is automatically matched to receive N5000 from 64 persons, which amounts to N320,000.
At level 4, which is the final stage, the member will be required to pay N10,000 (from the 320,000 received from level 3) to another member he or she is matched with. When the payment is confirmed, the member will be automatically matched to receive 10,000 naira from 256 persons, making a total of N2,560,000.
Another popular ponzi scheme in the country is the Givers Forum. According to the information on the website, the forum is a community where people help one another to own houses, buy brand new cars, acquire quality education and do well in life.
Any interested subscriber becomes a member after registering on its site, http://www.giversforum.com. The subscriber is provided with login details that enables the person to access a personal account known as Personal Office.
Upon the completion of the first step, the member is then expected to declare his or her willingness to donate (“Provide Help”), after which the account would be rewarded with the same amount pledged. The money starts growing from the moment of offering at the rate of 10 per cent per week with other bonuses. This sum shows how much a member can request for after a week of making the pledge and paying out to the receiving participant.
For instance, if a member announced the willingness to assist with N100,000. He will be rewarded in his Personal Office with N100,000, which will start growing immediately. A week later, this increases to N110,000 and in a month, it becomes N140,000. Accordingly, the member will be able to request assistance for N110,000 in the first week, N120,000 in the 2nd week, N130,000 in the 3rd week and N140,000 in the 4th week. All this are after his pledge might have been transferred and confirmed.
Requesting for or providing help comes to the member in his or her personal office. However, failure to honour the request within 48 hours during the week and 96 hours on weekends, the defaulting member is removed from the system and will not be able to register with the same name any longer.
Another popular ponzi scheme in Nigeria is My Duty. This scheme simply requires a participant to send an online link to as many people as possible and have each of them do same. The sum of 15 US dollars is credited to the person’s account for each click he or she gets from people online.
Other notable similar schemes with promises of higher returns for subscribers include Money Rift, Stable Power, Earntech, Analysis Human, Bitbox, Capitaller, e-Cyclix, Traffic Power Line, Money Grows, First In First Out, Cube Assets, Reliable Coin, Hyip-a, Unorex, True Bit, Invest Villa, Synvestment, Top Bit Hourly, Margin King, Prisma Invest, Coin Time, Icycle365, Winterstory, Blue Chip Lab, Stance Coin, Flash Coin, Rempay, Biteminer, BetX Siriuss Copy, Doubler Bitcoin, Coin Drill Bot, Steady Income, Incredible 5, Lundin Mining, Eleon Live, Fast Funds, GetHelpWorldwide, Get2Help, Mac, Elite Givers, Mzansihelp, among others.
The proliferation of ponzi schemes in Nigeria and the rate Nigerians subscribe to these schemes have, however, been blamed on the inability of the government to ameliorate the suffering of the people as recession bites harder.
Speaking with Sunday Sun reporter, an online business expert, Aanu Ajewole, said Nigerians would continue to patronise ponzi schemes until the government was able to mitigate the effect of the harsh economy on the people.
“It is no news that a lot of people can’t meet their basic needs and most of them feel the best way to stay afloat is to invest their little available resources on ponzi schemes,” said Ajewole.
A subscriber to one of the ponzi schemes, Gbenga Akinwummi, who described the scheme as a lifesaver, also blamed the rush by Nigerians for the schemes on economic recession.
“What some call ponzi scheme is what others refer to as lifesaving scheme. The country, at this point of our historical development, is facing the worst economic challenge, no thanks to recession. The scheme has been a major lifesaver for many Nigerians. Though there are many sponsored adverts and write ups against the scheme, you can’t blame the participants for taking such risks; the government doesn’t have a better option,”
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, prior to the abrupt suspension of MMM had warned Nigerians against dealing with money institutions that are not insured by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).
The apex bank through its Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Isaac Okoroafor, had said the CBN could not guarantee the unregistered institutions, insisting that when depositors lose money to them, the bank would not be able to help them.
“At times like this when the economy has suffered some decline, Nigerians should be very careful with those they deal with. Any institution that is not licensed by the CBN to accept deposits should not be given money to keep under any guise. These people always come with very interesting propositions. These are fraudsters who are just out there to collect people’s money and run away as soon as they hit their target. There is no insurance because the NDIC does not even protect them against such risks when they occur,” the CBN said.