SEC shuts illegal finance house

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by Agency Reporter

 

The Securities and Exchange Commission has closed down offices of New Nation Finance House in seven states of the federation, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.

The Assistant Director, SEC, and leader of the enforcement team, Mrs. Pamela Obioru, told NAN in Lagos on Wednesday that New Nation Finance House was an illegal entity.

NAN reports that the closure affected the company’s offices in Lagos, Akure, Bauchi, Birnin Kebbi, Calabar, Kano and Makurdi. The offices are to stop operations on February 7.

Obioru said that 14 of the company’s officials had also been arrested by the police.

She said that the action was part of SEC’s statutory responsibilities of regulating the capital market and protecting investors.

According to her, the enforcement exercise was necessary to prevent innocent investors from investing in illegal investment schemes.

“It is one of the routine exercises of the commission to clamp down on illegal investment operators in the country,” she stated.

Obioru explained that Section 153 of the Investment and Securities Act provided that operators of such firms must obtain a licence and file returns to the commission.

In Bauchi, SEC’s enforcement team leader, Malam Bala Mohammed, said the nationwide clampdown followed complaints from the investing public.

He said, “We received intelligent reports about two months ago that a company called New Nation was involved in some dubious financial transactions.

“It was gathered that the company receives money from investors with promises of high returns on investment.

“Immediately, we swooped into action and carried out surveillance.

“We discovered that the company had branches in the 36 states of the federation, including the FCT, with headquarters in Port Harcourt.

“Our findings also indicated that the company was neither registered with the Central Bank of Nigeria nor with the SEC, the two financial regulatory bodies in the country,” he said.

Answering questions from the commission’s agents, the Branch Senior Client Analyst, New Nation, Bauchi, Tina Yohanna, said the company was not into financial transactions.

She said that all she knew was that the company, owned by Mr. Charles Dukwe, was involved in youth and women empowerment programmes.

Yohanna said, “Our main activity here is the empowerment of youths with basic computer skills to enable them to earn a living in a technologically-driven world.

“We carry out computer training, free of charge after the beneficiary obtains our application form at a cost of N1,000.”

She said that about 100 people had registered for the computer programme.

Some of the clients told NAN in Bauchi that they knew about the company and its operations through their friends.

One of the clients, Saidu Mudi, said that he registered because he was told that the programme was free.

“I was at home when a friend came and told me that a company was training youths on computer education for free, after they obtain an application form for N1,000.

“After submitting the form, we were told that we would be trained in computer skills for free and that those who excel would be employed by the company while others would be given computers on loan to start a business,” he said.

Another beneficiary, Franca James, said she became interested when she was told that she would be trained to use a computer for free and at the end of the training, would be given a computer set also for free.

In Birnin Kebbi, another SEC Enforcement Officer, Mr. Babakura Mohammed, said that the commission’s enforcement and compliance department was on a national assignment to close financial institutions that did not comply with SEC Rules 2013, as amended.

Mohammed said that the illegal operator’s targets were high net-worth individuals and companies in various states of the federation.

One of the arrested agents, Sahabi Emmanuel, said, “The company targets women in oil business.”

Emmanuel, the New Nation client analyst in the state, said he lured 21 unsuspecting members of the public into the illegal scheme.

According to him, a minimum monthly deposit of N8,700 was collected from various women, who were told they would receive N10,000 monthly dividends after 12 months’ contribution.

The Assistant Director, Legal Services, SEC, Mr. Aminu Halilu, who led the commission’s team in Makurdi, said that the exercise was carried out to protect innocent Nigerian investors.

Halilu said the commission had received complaints of illegal investment collections by the company from unsuspecting members of the public against the provisions of SEC.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sonnie Elimihe, who claimed to be the company’s legal adviser in Lagos, vowed to challenge the commission’s actions in court.

Elimihe said that New Nation’s activities were duly registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission, stressing that the company was not into investment activities as alleged by SEC.

He said that the company was into buying and selling of blood pressure equipment under an initiative tagged ‘Grey & Strong’ to cater for elderly people aged 50 years and above, among others

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