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Chioma Ude

06.07.2023 Business Chioma Ude’s Envivo Communications Used 20 Students to Get N60m Loan From CBN. Now, the Students Are in Trouble

Published 6th Jul, 2023

By Daniel Ojukwu

Solomon Olagunju’s life might have been a lot easier in 2023 if he had not crossed paths with Chioma Ude’s Envivo Communications, an IT Services company, in 2020.

Olagunju, a Lagos resident, stumbled on the company’s Instagram advert in early January 2020. They were advertising 3D Unity Certification and calling for interested persons to register.

He saw this as an opportunity to bag a certification and boost his marketability, but three years after signing the dotted lines, he and over a hundred other people who made the same decision, are stuck with a ₦3 million debt each, a bad credit score and a trail of missed job opportunities.

Olagunju told FIJ this was not what he signed up for. He said his interest in the programme led him to click a link attached to the advert and register to learn.

“One Mr Doyin later contacted me to ask that I come to their office at Plot 8, Professor Gabriel Olusanya Street, QMB Road, Lekki Phase 1. I went there in February 2020, and it was there that Mr Doyin explained what the programme was really about,” Olagunju told FIJ.

“He told us it would involve getting a ₦3 million grant from CBN with Envivo Communications as guarantor. This money was to fund the programme. He explained to us what 3D Unity Certification was, and said the company would bring in Unity certified tutors from Unity Technologies to train us. According to him, Envivo was an affiliate of Unity Technologies in Nigeria. Mr Doyin also promised to bring a tutor from Japan because of their prolific animation and 3D skills.”

THE GRANT THAT WAS REALLY A LOAN

news exerpts showing unveiled CBN loan
News excerpt from May 7, 2019

In May 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) launched the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI), a facility that would allow Nigerians obtain loans of up to ₦500 million.

To be eligible for this loan facility, one had to have businesses in either fashion, movie production, movie distribution, information technology, music or software engineering.

Envivo secured a ₦3 million loan opportunity and a three-year payment window for the applicants. All applicants were made to open Access Bank accounts where the monies were paid into in June 2020.

“Fifteen minutes after the money came, our accounts were debited, and the whole sums were credited to Envivo Communications corporate account,” Olagunju told FIJ. “Before this money came, we submitted our original BSc and NYSC certificates to Access Bank’s Bode Thomas branch on the instruction of Envivo.

“They told us they would provide us with a laptop worth $1,050, a graphics card worth $971, a training that cost $4,000, and a ₦50,000 monthly stipend.

“The training was to run for one year, after which we would be provided jobs, and then Access Bank would begin deducting their loan from our salaries for two years. This was what Envivo told us.”

FAILED PROMISES BLIGHT ENVIVO’S TRAINING PROGRAMME

Olagunju's internship offer letter
Olagunju’s internship offer letter

What Envivo Communications told the potential trainees, and what eventually happened were two completely different things.

According to Olagunju’s internship offer letter, the company was to engage him from 2020 to 2023. The first year was to be for the training programme, and two years of work to cover for the loan disguised as a grant. It said so in his offer letter.

The wording of his contract was: “Your internship is expected to end on 15/03/2023. However, your internship with the company is at will, which means that either you or the company may terminate your internship at any time with or without notice.”

To get out of this contract or terminate it of his own volition, he had to provide a substitute or repay the loan given to him under the CIFI programme arrangement. Going by this contract, if the company had engaged him for three years, he never would have been saddled with repaying a loan, and would have no need for his seized certificates in a job-hunting venture.

“It was supposed to be that once we got engaged by Envivo, the bank would remove the money from our salary,” Olagunju told FIJ. “We would have wrapped up everything by now if they had delivered on what they promised initially.

“They did not even fulfill anything from the first year. The laptop they gave us was a HP 250 G7 Notebook worth $364.59 instead of one worth $1,050. They never provided us the graphics card, and no one from Unity Technologies or Japan ever trained us. We even had our training online for six months instead of a year. The only thing they fulfilled was the monthly allowance.”

APPLICANTS PETITION EFCC TO PROBE ENVIVO

When these students got frustrated, 20 of them, through Olugbenga Oso & Co., petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe Chioma Ude and Envivo.

Their petition, dated September 13, 2021, was acknowledged by the EFCC, but nothing happened for a year.

The petition, signed by Godwin Ogla, a lawyer from the firm, read in part, “Upon our clients’ admission into the skill acquisition programme, the management of Envivo compulsorily mandated our clients to open an account with Access Bank PLC hereinafter called (the Bank) with the intention of securing CBN loan for the programme.

“As requirement for obtaining the loans, the Bank requested our clients to submit their original BSc Certificates and NYSC Discharge Certificates as collateral for the loan of ₦3 million.”

Petition filed by Olugbenga Oso & Co
Petition filed by Olugbenga Oso & Co
Petition filed by Olugbenga Oso & Co

The petition further detailed how the money was immediately transferred into Envivo Communications’ account immediately it arrived the accounts of the applicants.

It further read that the coordinators of the programme, one Mr George Onyeiwu and Olugbenga Obadina, used the applicants “to obtain money from the CBN with the connivance of Access Bank”.

Obadina, Ude’s partner, was Envivo’s executive chairman and chief innovation officer. It was his job to hold the whole programme together, and when applicants lost faith in Mr Doyin in 2020, Obadina fired him and became the face the applicants saw for six months via Zoom meetings.

READ ALSO: CEO Accuses NYSC of ‘Killing’ Social Media Network Built by His Team Over N50m Bribe

According to Olagunju, “We thought Obadina was the CEO until we met Ude in 2022. What happened was that after Obadina sacked Doyin in 2020, he promised that we would restart the programme soon, and that Envivo Communications would bring a studio from Casablanca to absorb all the interns so that we could continue and finish the 3D training programme, after which we would become full-time employees of the studio, but this never happened.”

These events preceded the petition filed by the applicants.

When this petition failed to yield any results, the applicants approached a more reputable law firm, and petitioned the EFCC again. This time, the letterhead read “Falana & Falana’s Chambers”.

One year had passed since their first petition, and the applicants had grown tired of waiting. On August 9, 2022, their second petition arrived the EFCC’s desk.


Petition filed by Falana & Falana Chambers
Petition filed by Falana & Falana Chambers

EFCC INVITES UDE, FRAUD-LINKED OBADINA FOR QUESTIONING

On November 9, 2022, the applicants came face to face with the person who ran the whole operation — Chioma Ude.

“We did not realise Obadina was not the CEO until the EFCC invited him and Chioma Ude,” Olagunju told FIJ. “If you check the petition we wrote to them, you won’t see her name because we did not know her.

“Those of us who petitioned the EFCC were invited to their office on November 9, 2022. There, we held a meeting with Obadina and Ude, and they promised to pay back the loan since we did not receive the value of what we were promised, and no salary was ever paid into the account which the loan was supposed to be deducted from.”

Olagunju told FIJ that the pair were eager to seek a resolution and keep the matter under wraps as Ude was two days away from spearheading the African premiere of Marvel Studios’ Wakanda Forever movie.

Chioma Ude

Olagunju remembers that before the meeting with the EFCC, Obadina had appealed to the petitioners to be calm and resolve the matter amicably as he did not want a scandal to affect the launch Ude was planning as Founder of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), hosts of the Wakanda Forever Africa Premiere in Lagos.

At one point, Obadina called an applicant, and promised the company would pay up every penny of the loans accrued to them. This phone conversation was obtained by FIJ.

An applicant’s conversation with Obadina

In hindsight, Olagunju said he and the other petitioners should have seen that it was an attempt to get the petitioners quiet, host the premiere and then go back to silence. He said Envivo never paid the loans they promised to pay and the bank still held on to the applicants’ certificates.

“I have lost two job opportunities in 2023 because of this lingering issue,” Olagunju told FIJ. “I got employed to a bank, but when they checked my credit score, they said I should go and clear my debt first.

“I got another job in a bank, and they said the same thing. “I gathered close to half a million naira to pay Access Bank, hoping they would make it a performing loan, but after paying, they refused to make it a performing loan. I can’t get a job because of my credit score, and the fact that they are with my certificates.”

WHO IS OBADINA?

News clip from July 18, 2016
News clip from July 18, 2016

When FIJ asked Olagunju if he knew anything about Obadina prior to meeting him at Envivo, the job seeker said he never knew anything about the man until then.

FIJ found that this was not the first time Obadina would be linked to fraud allegations.

In 2016, the EFCC fingered Obadina as a beneficiary of ₦2.417 billion from Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser, for electricity contracts he never executed.

Dasuki is standing trial for money laundering related to an arms deal he brokered to the tune of over $2 billion while in office.

As of press time, the case against Dasuki is still before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, and was still heard on May 3, 2023.

UDE AND OBADINA ‘DRIBBLE’ FIJ

On June 27, 2022, FIJ called Ude, but she did not pick. We sent her a text message and WhatsApp message. She replied our WhatsApp message.

After we asked about the allegations made against her, Ude told us the applicants who petitioned the EFCC against her were impatient.

She said she had plans for the applicants, and would share more details with us when she was free, as she was occupied at the time.

FIJ waited for her follow-up, but there was none. We sent more messages and placed more calls, but she did not reply.

She later deleted all messages she sent to FIJ.


FIJ's conversation with Chioma Ude
FIJ’s conversation with Chioma Ude

FIJ called Obadina on June 28, but he did not answer the call. He also did not reply our text message and WhatsApp message.

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Published 6th Jul, 2023

By Daniel Ojukwu

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