By Bridget Edokwe
This is indeed not the best of times for the many investors in the Chinmark Group, with some of them even taking the case to deities, whereas others are threatening suicide.
Before he established the now rested business, which is not so different from other Ponzi Schemes, Marksman was famously known for his motivational speeches in Churches.
No wonder when he established the Chinmark investment platform, which promised investors mouth-watering return on their investment monthly, it did not take time before many Nigerians embraced the platform.
Even after the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, had disowned the platform last year, not many many people heeded the warning.
Ominous signs started late last year when the Group suspended payment of investors. Though some of the customers, including one of the promoters, Amanda Chisom suspected that things were no longer well, the Company insisted that there was nothing to worry about.
However, things got worse as days went by and investors discovered that Chinmark Group has locked up all the comment sections of their social media pages, thereby making it hard for investors to air their views.
The growth of the company was not so surprising as he surrounded himself with influencers such as top gospel music ministers, Yadah, Owie Abutu, Prospa Ochimana and Amanda Chisom.
In his Facebook post, Chinmark and his group claimed to have resumed payment of their investors on March 16, 2022.
The last post he made was on March 19, 2002 and it read:
Thank you for being here with us, for staying stronger and believing in us.
“These early months of 2022 has been very challenging for our organization, against this background, our company doubled down on its efforts to grow sustainable value for our customers, our employees and you, in the other sectors that we currently serve (Hospitality, Transport, Food and Logistics), and hence, most of our financial performance indicators improved.
“From the proceeds of our business (Hospitality, Transportation, Food and Logistics) despite our operational bank accounts being frozen by Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) on December 21, 2021 till date, we resumed payment to our partners on March 16, 2022; so far, out of 4966 partners, we have been able to pay 500 partners following an arithmetic order from our backlogs.
“In a bid to show transparency in our dealings as always, full names of paid partners ought to have been published today but several calls/messages/emails from our distinguished partners have further restricted us from doing this.
“Let me reassure you that your money is safe with us and we remain committed to repaying all partners soonest, update on partnership repayment will be provided always and your Managers will call to follow up; until then, I would humbly request you to kindly bear with us.
“With our operating performance growing strong, we will be providing timely updates in all areas as it affects your pending partnerships with us and other sectors that we have business presence in. We look forward to fully resolving this matter against the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), and we are determined to learn all that we can from this incident to be smarter, stronger and better as a company.
“We might not be able to fully purge ourselves soonest from the negative effects that this crisis caused our businesses in the other sectors and our customers mindset, your loyalty is reflected in our Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures the likelihood of customers recommending Chinmark Group (Transportation, Food Services, Logistics Services & Hospitality) to others; this score has significantly and steadily improved over the years and we humbly ask that you keep patronizing our businesses to enable us pass through this phase successfully.
“In a world that looks increasingly fragile and challenged to deal with existential threats to our health, environmental, social and economic future, we at Chinmark Group will keep living up to our purpose for 2022 and beyond; Chinmark Group solidity and value creation power remains strong and keeps growing.
“For all the inconveniences and frustrations that the delay in the repayment of this capital has caused you, we are very sorry and we apologize for all. We understand that people’s dreams and a lot of plans have been put on hold by this delay, please accept our sincere apology.
“We have received lots of petitions from Government agencies by aggrieved partners, we truly understand how you feel; we humbly ask that you remain calm and exercise more patience while we sort out these repayments and pass through this crisis as these petitions are affecting timely execution of our business operations – which we depend on to make repayments.
“On behalf of our leadership team and all Chinmark Group employees, we thank you for your trust and ongoing support. Thank you for trusting the Chinmark Brand. We do not take it for granted, and once again, we reassure you that your funds are safe.
“All our branches are fully open to serve you.”
The message was personally signed by Dr. Marksman Chinedu Ijiomah, the Chairman Chinmark Group.
However, contrary to his post, no other thing has been heard from him two weeks after.
And his investors, who spoke with Newsmen said this was a total lie and a sort of damage control, more so as he failed the challenge thrown at him to publish the names of the said beneficiaries.
Things also got worsened as some of the phone contacts and email address he made available are either not functional or ring forever without responses. Some of the contacts include Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number: 09084442018, 08106706639, 09131033220 09131033255, 09062819828 09062819826, 09123713515.
This is, however, not the first time Nigerians, mostly the youth population are having their hopes shattered and life savings drained.
Many Nigerians thought their salvation from poverty had arrived when MMM came a few years ago, but the messiah left suddenly leaving families in sorrow and agony.
After a few years, NBA Forex came, and then Naddy Forex, Loom, Benignant Forte, and other ponzi schemes, with millions of investors’ millions going down the drain.
For Chinmark and his promoters, it has been one form of curse to the other by investors.
“So our money is gone. Well, if anything happens to me, my blood is on Chinedu’s head. Goodbye my fellow investors,” that was the words of one of the investors simply identified as Nuella.
Other participants in the money-doubling scheme, who spoke to Newsmen, rained curses on the pioneer of the scheme.
Mrs. Evelyn Nwadike, an Abuja based-business woman, said her younger sister in Anambra introduced her to the ponzi scheme.
“It was too good to be true. I never believed it but when I reluctantly put in N500, 000 from my business money and got paid, after the first month, I started investing more money until I realized I had put in N3m already.
“I lost all doubts even for the very fact that he had some popular Pastors and gospel singers around him. It shall not be well with him if he fails to pay back those monies. I did not even let my husband know before going into the investment,” she lamented.
Another woman, a housewife who simply identified herself as Amaka, said she gave Chinedu the N500, 000 her husband sent her from abroad to take care of her home.
“I heard the man has escaped from Nigeria but wherever he is, my God will locate and punish him accordingly. My own is even a small amount compared with my neighbour who introduced me into the business. She lost N5million and this was the money her husband gave her to keep, hoping they’ll use it to buy land,” she disclosed.
Meanwhile, speaking to newsmen about Nigerians’ gullibility, an Abuja-based economist, Bright Madu, blamed factors such as bad leadership, get-rich-quick syndrome and laziness for the continued patronage of ponzi schemes.
According to him, “First of all, you should understand that the country’s economy is in shambles. The fact is that people are looking for the fastest possible opportunity to survive. The past few years have been terrible. For this particular reason, people tend to become gullible and easily fall for these scammers who collect the little they have and impoverish them more.
“So, bad leadership would take a large chunk of the blame while we look at other factors such as the get rich quick syndrome and laziness on the part of some of these investors who are now crying. This Chinmark ponzi scheme isn’t the first ponzi scheme to disappoint the people.
“You remember the one I’ll call the most popular, MMM. When MMM crashed, many people who lost millions of Naira in it would have learnt their lessons but that was not the case. Many Nigerians want to double their money, not by doing legitimate businesses but by trusting ponzi scheme operators and you know how risky that is.
“The current administration hasn’t done enough to reduce the pain of hardship. The Middle class has been eroded. Go to market places and you will understand what I’m saying. Things keep getting worse by the day. Okay, take for instance, fuel has been scarce for more than a month now.
“There are no job opportunities for the teaming youths who graduate from universities every year. So, we have massive unemployment and underemployment. For these reasons, people tend to grab any opportunity to make or increase their money and would always fall into the wrong hands.”
Also, a human rights activist, Emecheta had accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Enugu and the State Police Command of shielding Marksman.
He said that despite countless petitions submitted by aggrieved investors to the EFCC office in Enugu and the Enugu State Police Command, nothing has been done.
“The Securities and Exchange Commission is not helping either. I know 42 people who lost N713,500,000 to him. I only want him to pay them back. He is very safe in Enugu State,” he stated.
As of the time of filing this report, one of the promoters, Amanda Chisom is fighting a battle of her life trying to convince her followers that she was also a victim and was not in any way a party to the scandal.
In a recent interview with BBC Igbo, Chisom maintained that she never suspected foul play not until the tail end of last year.
She, however, lamented that ever since the scheme crashed, not only her, but her parents have been receiving death threats.
Marksman had called for patience on the part of the investors, promising to pay them when he succeeds in liquidating the company. However, close watchers said the company had no such asset with which to offset the debt.
As of the time of filing this report, it was learnt that frustrated investors have flooded the Enugu office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the police command with petitions against the Chinmark Group. It is, however, unclear why he is yet to be picked up for questioning.