Fast-growing money scheme, Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM), yesterday jolted millions of Nigerians and spelt a bleak Yuletide for participants when it placed a one-month ban on all withdrawals starting from December 13, sparking fears that the popular Ponzi scheme, which has since been declared illegal by the Federal Government, has crashed.
A letter displayed on the page of participants of the scheme cited “heavy workload on system” as the reason for the ban. This means that members who are due to withdraw both their capital and 30 per cent return on investment will no longer be able to do so until sometime in January 2017.
According to the letter, the ban on withdrawals is partly due to negative reports by the media on the scheme. The letter reads in part: “One-month freezing of confirmed Mavros. Dear members, as usual in the New Year season, the system is experiencing heavy workload.
“Moreover, it has to deal with the constant frenzy provoked by authorities in the mass media. The things are still going well; the participants feel calm; everyone gets paid – as you can see, there haven’t been any payment delays or other problems yet – but it is better to avoid taking the risk, Moreover, there are just three weeks left to the New Year.
“On the basis of the above mentioned, therefore, all confirmed Mavros will be frozen for a month. The reason for this measure is evident. We need to prevent any problems during the New Year and then, when everything calms down, this measure will be cancelled, which we will definitely do. We hope for your understanding, Administration.”
While those behind the scheme insisted that it had not crashed, close followers of MMM warned that the one-month freeze announced was similar to what happened in South Africa before the scheme eventually crashed there.
Apparently alarmed that their investment was lost, and despite shunning the government’s warnings, some users turned to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday for help, only to get mocked.
A Twitter user, The Reet Petite, had suggested in a tweet via @Lolami_Boo, that it was the EFCC’s job to stop such scams, before the anti-graft agency recalled that there were several warnings about the scheme.
“Where the hell was @officialEFCC ?? Isn’t it your job to stop crap like this???” EFCC replied: “You mean amongst the plethora of venality we fight daily? Ponzi schemes aren’t sustainable. There were a number of warnings. #Don’tDoIt If it looks or sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Do NOT patronize wonder banks. Protect yourself. #Don’tDoIt”
But when another user in response to the EFCC claimed that the agency’s officials and their spouses or siblings also fell for the scheme, the anti-graft agency did not hold back. “Bravo … no wait … MAVRO to them,” it replied.
Some Nigerians have also taken to the social media to express their thoughts and feelings on the recent development. For the most parts of yesterday, MMM was trending on both Twitter and Facebook. While some participants in the scheme have said they were not worried about the temporary ban placed on their accounts, a lot of critics are having a good laugh.
Below are some of the messages by both MMM participants and critics: “Mannequin Challenge of the year goes to MMM Nigeria; Dear MMM Nigeria, Nigerians don’t have that patience you are talking about. Pay me what you owe me; Seems December is about to overtake January as the longest month as people await “MMM Nigeria” to unfreeze; I was drinking tea when someone called me and said that MMM Nigeria has been frozen till January. Omo, the tea started tasting like yoyo bitters; My friend has been trying to collect money since last week until this news came. She is busy wailing, who will console her now in this Buhari economy?”
This development is coming two days after the MMM founder, Sergey Mavrodi, had said in an open letter to the president that the scheme has done a lot to improve the welfare of Nigerians and reduce poverty despite the fear expressed by the federal government that it is a ponzi scheme. He urged the government to look at the benefits of the scheme to over three million Nigerians in one year of its existence in the country, especially, where the scheme is the only source of livelihood for some Nigerians.
Against all warnings from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and lawmakers, Nigerians patronized the scheme and the likes enmasse.
The CBN’s Acting Director of Corporate Communications Department, Isaac Okorafor, yesterday said the secret group and their members have shown defiance to warnings and they stand the chance of losing big time.
“We have done the needful. We only wish that they would not hurt so much, as well as sympathise with those that lost. But we still warn Nigerians against such similar schemes that may be ongoing or may come in due time,” he said.
Already, a participant, who pleaded anonymity, has expressed doubt the group would resume activities again, adding that he had earlier warned those he introduced to stay action in December and January.
A development consultant, Jide Ojo, told The Guardian that the craze for Ponzi schemes in the country is the result of hunger and poverty in the land, as people would readily justify their action by the popular cliché “Life itself is a risk.”
Also, an investment banker, who pleaded anonymity, said that the proliferation and acceptance of illegal schemes by huge numbers in the country is not portraying the country in good light.
According to him, it is also an indication of the level of enlightenment, ethical practice and particularly, the dominating character of greed in the larger society. “How can a sane person quickly enter into a scheme that the person does not know the people behind it and without address?” he queried.