Benignant Forte Nigeria Ltd., a company owned by Akor Philip Paul, has joined the growing list of companies guilty of mismanaging investment funds.
The company, headquartered in Jabi, Abuja, and a few other branches in Lagos, Abia, Onitsha and Dubai, stopped paying its investors in July, without giving them any tangible reason.
Based on its website, the company handles real estate development, logistics, haulage, and agro-allied services.
It also promised investors a return on investment (ROI) of six to 15 percent, based on the signed agreement.
However, because of the company’s unusual silence, and when complaints and concerns from investors became very alarming, Benignant Forte issued a statement.
In the statement, the company appealed to its investors for calm, saying it would halt business activities and investor payments in a bid to sort out the challenges it was having with Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) certification.
In the same statement, the company also requested a one-year grace period to repay investors.
This appeal drew suspicion from the company’s investors, with many of them believing they had become victims of yet another Ponzi scheme.
AN INVESTOR WITH A DYING FATHER
“I initially invested N500, 000 in the company’s six month plan in January, and was promised an ROI of eight percent. I regularly received the agreed return until June, when the plan expired. However, the moment I reinvested N3 million in July, the company stopped paying,” an investor, who wished not to be named, told FIJ.
According to the investor, the company sent a message in the same month, advising her and other investors to put further investments on hold.
“In the message, the company also said they had received an instruction from the SEC to suspend transactions till further notice, and as a result of this, they would return the capital to us,” she added.
However, since making a promise to refund investors’ money in July, the company is yet to do so.
“My father is dying and I don’t even have money to take care of him. The money I could have used is now hanging with Benignant Forte. I don’t know what to do any more; I am helpless,” she concluded.
OVER N10 BILLION INVOLVED, THOUSANDS OF INVESTORS AFFECTED TOO
“I am even ashamed to say how much I invested with the company. I deserve to be flogged for making such a huge financial mistake,” said another invested who simply identified as Nansel.
According to the investor, he was instrumental in recommending the company’s various investment plans to his neighbours in 2020, after he had invested for a while and had come to believe that the offers were genuine and rewarding.
“If I am to give you a rough estimate of how much money is involved, we would be looking at over N10 billion. Thousands of investors are involved as well. We, as affected investors, have separate WhatsApp groups. In my group alone, a group I would consider a moderately congested forum, we are over 700. There are groups that have over one thousand investors in them. In short, we are in our thousands,” the investor said.
DENOUNCIATION BY ERSTWHILE AMBASSADOR
Queen Oluchi Duruibe, the CEO of Fab Que, and a one-time brand ambassador of Benignant Forte, posted a series of comments on her official Facebook page denouncing the recent fraudulent activities of the company and also making investors know she had nothing to do with the company’s latest state.
“My brand was contacted for a brand ambassador deal by Benignant Forte Nig Ltd. On February 2 this year, we sealed the contract and did the paperwork,” said the influencer in her post.
Duruibi said she only concentrated on promoting the brand and distanced herself from the company’s recent unacceptable way of handling investment capital.
She revealed that unknown to many, the company started drowning in June, when Akor deliberately reduced interest rates but would not stop accepting money from new and unsuspecting investors just to raise funds to pay old investors whose payment dates were already due.
She also said she could not raise the alarm because the contract she signed was still binding and she was not at liberty to expose the level of mismanagement that was going on within the establishment.
“It is noteworthy that my contract with the company expired on August 2, so you can see my stand,” she added.
N4.5M ON WEDDING CAKE ALONE, N45M ON OTHER WEDDING EXPENSES
On July 3, Akor married Irom Kofi Tabitha Edet in a lavish wedding and with a cake said to have cost N4.5 million.
“Apart from the expensive wedding cake, I have it on good authority that more than N45 million was spent on the lavish ceremony. This man knew his investment had crashed, but still went ahead to spend investors’ money recklessly on his wedding. Is that not wickedness? Nansel stated.
Duruibi also confirmed in her Facebook post that the CEO spent the stated amount on a gigantic wedding cake.
On October 28, Akor went live on Facebook from an unknown location, claiming to be unwell and promising to refund investors. He also said payments would be made to investors soon, and in an ascending order.
On October 31, he released a second video showing his environment to make investors believe he was back in Nigeria to resolve the situation.He told investors he was going to liquidate the company’s assets to pay them.
On November 1, he released yet another video appealing for calm, urging investors not to physically assault any member of his staff and promising that with time, every investor would be refunded. He also promised that by midweek, he would gladden investors’ hearts.
FIJ made several calls to the phone numbers on Benignant Forte’s website and Facebook page, but they were unanswered. Messages sent to the phone numbers and Akor’s Facebook page were also not responded to.
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