Investors in Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society are pressing the panic button, following delay in the payment of their Return on Investment (ROI) and the introduction of new policies by the management of the outfit.
The Cooperative Society was established a little over a year ago by a prominent architect turned pastor and politician, Miebi Bribena, with the aim of improving the lives of people and reducing poverty.
Under its fold are three schemes which covers; scholarship, financial, empowerment, housing, car ownership, agriculture and credit thrift.
Although it is operated as a Cooperative Society with the management trading with investors capital in the Forex market, most people still believe that it is more of a ponzi scheme, especially because of the high rate of ROI.
Since it began in 2020, Baraza pays 25 and 15 percent monthly profit to its investors, depending on the status of investment, a development that attracted more membership of the Cooperative Society and has made people to establish/expand their businesses, own cars, houses and even travel abroad for leisure.
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However, recent events have greatly suggested that all is not well with Baraza as the organization seems to be swimming in trouble waters, due to some factors that are now threatening its existence and may abruptly end its operations like other ponzi scheme.
Signs that there is danger ahead started manifesting when the management on March 18, 2021, announced in a statement, the suspension of new intakes in order to “regularize existing members”.
Part of the statement read:
“Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society has announced the suspension of registration of new members with effect from Monday, 22nd March, 2021, to allow it regularize membership of those that are yet to be captured for payment, as well as, regularize its payment procedure to meet end of March deadline.
“This formed part of the resolutions of the Trustees, Presidents, Managers, and Staff virtual meeting held on Sunday, 14th March, 2021, chaired by the CEO Arch (Dr) Miebi Bribena. It was resolved that some members who are yet to be captured should use the period to perfect their registration processes, in order to ensure their monthly payment.
“Regretting the inconveniences the development might have caused intending members, the Management, thereby, appealed to them to exercise patience, as the decision is aimed at ensuring effective service delivery. It added that the period would also be used to address issues relating to delayed payments as it affects some members and the upgrading of the payment facilities” it said.
The decision to suspend the registration of new members came on the heels of delayed payment, particularly for the month of February, which prompted the management to issue a press statement to assuage investors.
Depite the fears allayed, some investors are still worried that the management has suspended payment throughout the month of April with the claim that the one month will be used to balance its books and strengthen its administrative structures.
At a virtual meeting presided over by the Chief Executive Officer himself on Saturday March 20, it was also announced that interest has been reduced from 25% to 15% for new members.
It was also announced that there will be no more monthly payment for new members, as it will be done on quarterly basis and old members were encouraged to migrate from the simple interest of 25% monthly to compound interest of 15% yearly package.
Some of the investors have blamed the CEO, Bribena for the current predicament they are facing, saying from the issues playing out, it is obvious he must have dipped his hands into their own profits because of his ostentatious lifestyle.
They said, Bribena’s penchant for lavishly spending money has become his albatross and may consume all investors if steps are not taken to correct some of the anomaly.
One of the investors who preferred to be anonymous said: “The man spends money as if it is going out of fashion. Everyday, you hear Baraza is sponsoring one event or the other and I believe it is not just his money alone that he is using to do that.
“Recently, he took the sole responsibility of building from foundation to roofing level, the First Lady’s home for the elderly project. That is huge. So all of these have compounded his woes. I just hope that by the month of May, he can bounce back.
Another investor, Christina Alali, blamed what is happening to the massive expansion that the management has undertaken, saying it was done in a haste and without proper planning.
She said: “Baraza like you know is just a year old and yet they are doing expansion, opening branches across the country, when what he should have done was to consolidate on the foundation and stabilize Bayelsa very well. Me I fear for what is to come, so I am trying to get my money out first before any unfortunate event happens”.
A married woman, Bio Abel while expressing her displeasure via Baraza’s Facebook page said: “My husband is a first timer, contribution date 1st of February 2021 but till date no payment and we are in Lagos. We followed all the steps customer care asked us to do but still no payment and my husband is angry with me because I was the one that introduced him and it is not funny”.
It was gathered that in Bayelsa alone, Baraza has over 20,000 registered members across the eight local government areas of the state, with low income earners, making up majority of the figure. Thus, in the event of any unfortunate incident, the causality figure will be too much to handle.
The recent debacle of a similar scheme, MBA Forex, where investors capital to the tune of over N170 billion vanished has further increased fears of Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society.