When Shola Ugoh saw an advert by Vestpay, a digital farm, in January 2021, that investors would get 15% Return on Investment after three months for investing in its farm, the offer got him thinking deeply.
This was because the ROI was tempting. To him, it was a good investment opportunity that he didn’t want to miss, so, he wasted no time in investing N100,000 in the company.
Six months down the line, Ugoh regrets taking that step, as Vestpay has shifted its return payment twice without a cogent reason for doing so.
According to him, Vestpay has neither delivered on its promise to return a 15% profit after three months nor paid back the capital.
An investment gone south
Ugoh recounts, “I invested about N100,000 in the company in January with the hope of receiving the promised returns in 3 months, but all to no avail. Scores of investors like me injected our money on their farm products and the dates have elapsed but Vestpay has been rescheduling payments, twice now without paying their investors.”
According to him, the failure of Vestpay team, led by Bill Kenneths, to pay when due has been making him lose money and also stifling his ability to invest in other things. At this point, Ugoh is exasperated enough to seek only his initial capital investment as he has come to terms with the fact that the touted returns may never materialize. Ugoh is not the only aggrieved investor in Vestpay identified. Findings revealed that scores of them have actually formed a group on social media platforms like Telegram and Instagram with #vestpaysaggrievedinvestors, and #FarmsponsorsPayYourinvestors. One of them claimed that the total investment by members was over N15 million.
So, it was not surprising that they are already writing a petition to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). Narrating her ordeal, another investor simply called Jibola, who is a nurse, took to Instagram to attack the company calling for the refund of her capital.
But unlike Ugoh, she demanded that her returns should be paid as well without further delay. She lamented, “Vestpay, pay your investors without delay. My money came from dirty jobs. I do night shifts to make a living and many times had to leave my children at home to go and make a living. Pay my money in both cycles.”
In a similar development, investors of HO Corn, another digital farmer, are also lamenting over an alleged failure of the company to pay returns as promised. About 40 of these investors formed a pressure group to demand the return of their seed capital and the ROI. They alleged that the total investment by members was over N30 million.
Already, they have engaged the services of a lawyer, who has written to HO Corn on their behalf. Like the Vestpay investors, they have also petitioned the EFCC. Joy Oluwaseun, one of the investors, said that she heard about the investment from one of the company’s marketers.
She narrated, “The marketer gave me the flier around Ogba, I made my findings and actually confirmed it was genuine, especially when I saw different promotional campaigns on television stations like Channels, which I believe is one of the reputable ones in the country.
So, I was convinced that the company was genuine and it would be a good investment.” To make more returns, Oluwaseun had to go looking for a loan of N300,000, which was obtained from friends. She explained that she did not envisage any disappointment, based on the available ‘evidence,’ which was why she did not entertain any fear when investing the money.
“I borrowed money to add to what I had, to invest. Not only have they tied down my money, but I have also not been able to pay back those I took the loan from. It would have been a great relief, if the money had been paid at the stipulated time, because of the financial strain I experienced during the lockdown period. It also affected my business greatly,” she recounted .Oluwaseun belongs to the group of aggrieved investors that contracted a lawyer to write a petition to HO Corn, but they have since received no response. She personally visited HO Corn office on Lagos Island but met no one. This is besides calling the official numbers, which did not connect to anyone. She stated that she wrote to them, saying:
“I just went through your mail. I invested in other platforms after you, and they have paid me my returns.
Which pandemic are you lying about?
So many farmers went to the farm to plant. To be sincere with you, there is a shortage of maize in the country. The government also banned the importation of corn, so I know there are many buyers around. But if you say you do not have buyers, I will do my best to connect you with buyers. Now, I have many requests, but first of all, show me your maize storage unit, and what is left on the farm.” She however received no response from HO Corn to her mail.
While efforts to get the response of HO Corn to respond to the allegations were aborted, Kenneths of Vestpay defended his company when it issued a statement to defend its actions.
According to him, the company has recorded certain milestones based on the funds it got from the investors. Some of the feats are 10 tons per hour feed mill, which according to him, is now operating at full capacity, 128,000 chicks per week capacity hatchery, which is also operating at full capacity among others.
He stated, “All of these milestones are verifiable and a pointer to the fact that Farmsponsor is properly positioned to pay everyone. We sincerely apologized for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We are committed to delivering on our mandate of food security for Africa. We may not allow foul languages and we will also try our best not to waste anyone’s time.”
HO CORN’s insurance firm speaks
HO Corn claimed on its website that it was covered by Anchor Insurance, but findings revealed that the insurance policy it took had been terminated, as it failed to provide the insurance company with the whole truth about its business activities. A source in Anchor Insurance said:
“If you go to our website, you will see the explanation of agric insurance products, that it covers the crops. For instance, if there are fire incidents on the farm, flood, drought, pests and diseases that normally disturb or damage crops, those are the risks that we insure against, not against invested money. We are not an investment outfit. It is just like you insure your car against accident and fire. Anywhere in the insurance sector, the agric insurance policy covers those risks.”
If these investors have been scammed or not, no one can actually tell but time will. It is also noted that COVID-19 pandemic disrupted most businesses activities, particularly agriculture businesses, and they would have been the first line of casualties, given the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
Nevertheless, these firms owe their subscribers some measure of information and good faith and therefore, should be open about their challenges. These are realities, but it is important to note that going forward, investors should do proper background checks to ensure the claims of companies seeking their funds are verified and they are approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), before investing.