Chinyere Emeka-Atu, a businesswoman from Lagos State, is accused of robbing traders and market women of almost N600 million.
PUNCH The woman allegedly utilized her organization, Family Food Support Association, to entice unwary members of the public, especially petty merchants, to part with N9,000 per month in exchange for a larger return on their investments.
After nine months of investing in the association’s program, the victims were allegedly promised a return of N200,000 in cash and N90,000 in food.
However, the businesswoman is said to have formed roughly 39 groups under the association, each led by an independent leader, in order to ensure adequate coordination.
Those who invested in the scheme were reportedly divided into groups from all over the country.
Things took a turn for the worst when Emeka-Atu failed to pay the promised money and provide food donations to individuals who had participated in the plan.
The circumstance was alleged to have sparked outrage, with some of the disgruntled victims reporting the incident to the police, who then detained Emeka-Atu.
On April 12, 2022, she was arraigned in Tinubu Magistrate’s Court.
The businesswoman was remanded in detention and the case was adjourned, according to the Magistrate, A.O. Alogba.
At the resumed hearing, our correspondent, who was present in court, heard as the prosecuting counsel, M.A. Animashaun, prayed the court for additional 15 days to file proper charges at the High Court.
He said, “In order to avoid any breakdown of law and order because of the massive crowd with placards protesting and demanding justice outside the court, I pray this honourable court for additional 15 days to prepare and file a charge at the Federal High Court to ensure that justice prevails in the matter.
“The defrauded amount is N600m and so I pray the court for further remand of the defendant.”
The defence counsel, Amaka Nwafor, however, pleaded with the court to grant her bail.
She said, “The court on April 12, 2022, gave a ruling that the defendant be kept for seven days in custody of the prosecution for proper arraignment and the defendant has since been in the custody of the police for three weeks now. My client is a mother with ill health and has the right to bail. I pray the court to grant her accordingly.”
The magistrate denied the plea by Emeka-Atu’s counsel and adjourned hearing till April 28, 2022.
Meanwhile, the aggrieved traders, who were outside the court with different placards, demanded a refund of their money.
One of them, Francisca Usondu, said she joined the scheme in September 2020, adding that over 4000 members had yet to be settled in her group, tagged the Yellow Team.
She said, “The coordinator, Emeka-Atu, confirmed that our group leader, Elizabeth Uche, remitted all contributions up till February 13, 2022, and Emeka-Atu has refused to pay them back according to the agreement of the business.
“According to the agreement on the flier, interested persons will register with N1,700, and make N2,000 weekly contribution on Sundays. Defaulters will pay N2,000 for each missed Sunday. Every member who brings additional three persons will be entitled to N90,000 worth of goods and N200,000 cash at the end of nine months.
“Every member has been complying with this, but since June 2021, members who joined the association in September 2020 have yet to get their benefits till date. In January 2022, Emeka-Atu amended the constitution and said only members with 13 additional persons are entitled to N200,000. Our leaders begged us to comply which we did, but we have yet to receive any dividends up till now.”
Another victim, Amaka Eze, a single mother, while crying, said to avoid being defrauded and to ascertain that the business was legitimate, she visited the association’s office on Toyin Street, Lagos.
“I suffered so much to bring three other people together and we invested in this networking business, but after all our sacrifices, the coordinator has refused to give us back our benefits. We plead to those in authority to help us the masses to get justice,” she said.