Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society, a business venture owned by Miebi Bribena, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Bayelsa State and pastor at Christ Embassy Church, has been accused of robbing over 40,000 investors of billions of naira in a scheme that promised a 25 percent Return on Investment (ROI) every month.
On August 6, investors, including persons living with disabilities, stormed the company’s headquarters located on Otiotio Road, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, demanding a refund of the sums invested. FIJ learned that the protest would have been violent without the intervention of security forces.
“I can’t even count how many investors are currently affected by Baraza’s inability to keep its promises. We are many,” said an investor who asked not to be named.
“They have branches in Port-Harcourt, Yenagoa and some other parts of the country. As a matter of fact, their corporate head office is in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.”
He said he invested N100,000 and was promised a N25,000 ROI on a monthly basis.
“At the end of six months or one year, it is either you collect your money or reinvest it. However, since March, when I invested, I am yet to get a dime from the company,” the investor further said.
He told FIJ that the friend who introduced him to the programme also invested N300,000 and did not get any yield on his money.
Speaking with FIJ, another investor said, “I invested N11 million of my hard-earned money in February, but as we speak, nothing has been paid back to me, either in terms of ROI or capital.
“I can tell you that well over 40,000 people invested in the scheme. I don’t even know if I would ever overcome this. We are talking about billions of naira here.”
An investor said he borrowed N600,000 to invest in the scheme, hoping he would get reasonable returns on it. He also said he would be glad if the company at least returned his capital.
THE ISSUE WITH INVESTORS’ FUNDS
Originally, Baraza told investors it was trading with their money on forex platforms. FIJ gathered that the company suspended all its activities for three months, beginning from April, after encountering challenges on its trading platforms. At a point, it could no longer meet up with investors’ ROI, as he was not making a profit.
As it struggled to get out of its challenges, news broke that some members of the company’s staff stole over N500 million. Baraza said the theft was unravelled through a discreet investigation by forensic auditors and security experts.
THE ASSURANCE FROM BRIBENA
Despite all the challenges, Bribena assured his investors that the company would commence payment in batches from July 19. To further allay investors’ fears, he released a video on July 6, saying:
“I just received a fake news that I had collapsed just because July 19 is almost here [laughs]. As you can see, I am trading [he directs his camera at the monitor before him], so, ignore such news. If I did not faint since, is it now that I will faint?
“I don’t know whether some people are angry that Baraza could bounce back. Just know that I have not fainted. It is just that I have not shaved today [laughs]. I just need to quickly clear the air before the news goes viral. I have to stop right now because I am currently trading. Thank you very much, and see you on July 19.”
Despite the assurance that payment would start on July 19, investors told FIJ at the end of September, more than two months after, that they were yet to get their money as promised. Bribena is alleged to be on the run. FIJ also gathered that an aggrieved investor had sued the company, resulting in the freezing of its account.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) sealed off Baraza’s Yenagoa head office on Monday. An inscription, ‘EFCC, under investigation,’ was also seen on the walls of the building.
When contacted, Hope Etura, a church deacon who is believed to be one of Baraza’s Port Harcourt managers, denied ever working with the company. He also claimed he was an investor who still hoped to get his money back.
FIJ made several calls to the telephone numbers displayed on Baraza’s website, but they were unreachable. SMS and emails sent to the company also got no response.
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