Nigerians have recently been introduced to the popular MMM scheme. The controversial scheme who most “savvy investors” refer to as either a ponzi or pyramid scheme has garnered a lot of support from those who participate in it. Operators of the scheme in Nigeria have also not been ashamed to defend it vehemently despite the warning of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it did not recognize such a scheme.
It’s quite easy to understand why a lot of people defend this scheme. Firstly, it is highly profitable and very easy to understand. All you need to do is deposit money into someone’s account and then wait patiently for one more for someone else to deposit money into yours with an interest of about 30% in one month. No investment or business out there can beat such return.
The second reason of course is the fear that it could actually blow up if the media and critics in the social media continue to write negatively about it. This is because the scheme relies heavily on new incomers to sustain so the more circumspect people are to invest, the higher the rate of failure for the scheme which could mean millions of naira lost for early investors.
So what does it look like if this scheme fails? Luckily it is easy to find out. MMM is new in Nigeria but not new in Africa or indeed the world. A trip down to South Africa provides us an idea of what could happen if things go bad and early investors stop coming.
Just a few months ago (March 2016), MMM crashed in South Africa, forcing the scheme to reset. As such, members of the scheme who had invested and were awaiting their returns lost millions of rands. According to this article from a South African Website Fin24. Here is the full article as culled from the website including comments from frustrated investors.
MMM resets system causing panic among members
Cape Town – MMM SA members stand to lose thousands of rands after their accounts were frozen and the mavros points system was reset due to a lack of new money entering the alleged pyramid scheme.
Anonymous leaders of the South African wing of the alleged Russian pyramid scheme blamed “media panic” for the reboot on April 30.
MMM SA told members: “We have to declare a restart and start all over again. We have no choice.”
MMM members have voiced their concern on social media, with one claiming he is set to lose R30 000.
Facebook user BM Abinet said the last time he checked he had 35 798 mavros (which is equivalent to the rand currency), “but now the system says my old mavros is 5 798, so where’s my R30 000?”
MMM SA told members that all mavros from before April 30 were frozen and were now called “old mavros” and that “any operations with them are impossible”.
“With the development of the system, we will send 10% of total input to pay back the ‘old’ mavros.
“According to the experience of other countries, we can definitely say that in the normal course of events all the old mavros debts will be paid off in about six months.”
It said “new mavros (mavros bought from the moment of this announcement) are introduced. You can use them on a common basis to ‘acquire’ and ‘withdraw’ them at any time.”
“We will quickly pay off ‘old’ mavro debts, no doubt about it. You just have to wait.”
The same message was given to another alleged SA pyramid scheme Kipi, which last paid out “dreams” to its members in 2015. The system is very similar to MMM, but instead of “donations”, it uses “dreams”.
Kipi, also known as Mydeposit241, is one of several schemes under investigation by the National Consumer Commission. Others include WorldVentures, Make Believe, NMT Investments, Instant Wealth Club, Sikhese (Pty) Ltd and Wealth Creation Club.
Facebook user NK Njokweni wrote in April 2016: “Talk about Kipi because people are waiting for their money since December.”
MMM SA members are promised between 30% and 40% in returns for paying other people money on request. This donation model has been described as a pyramid scheme by most financial experts and is being investigated by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) as such.
It has also being described as a stokvel, which it is not, according to the National Stokvel Association of SA. It is not regulated by the SA Reserve Bank or any other regulator, so members who lose money won’t be able to seek justice.
However, the Hawks has requested the public to report the scheme to the police should they have a complaint. This will assist them in their investigation.
Facebook user EN Zamadlomo said: “What’s up with MMM with inability to pay our money, but want us to provide help how? Is MMM going down?”
Facebook user IO Oluhle said: “Something is not right. What’s going on? Where is our money? My dashboard is wiped clean.”
Facebook user I Maja said: “Mine too is wiped out. MMM systems have been frozen. Is it the end of MMM?”
Facebook user DM Luzitu said: “How am I going to take back my money, what am I going to tell people who get in behind me? Please help me.”
Responding to users querying what had happened to their promised future “donations”, a MMM member said: “To all members who requested ph (provide help) and they did not make any payment, your orders will be automatically cancelled because they are restarting from old mavros to new. So please if your request to ph is cancelled kindly make new ph with same amount or more again.
“We will not gh (get help) for two weeks because of we still updating the system. If you requested any gh and your order is not out yet, may you kindly cancel the requests because you will not be given any order for the next two weeks.
“All this is because of the long queue of gh that was requested after the panic pause caused by media … so now the system is restarting again for the better of our people.
“MMM is not crashing, but we are fixing the system to recover and operate as normal as before.”
In a line that reveals the potential pyramid scheme nature of MMM, the user said: “please recruit, recruit, recruit and ph, ph, ph to help the system to recover quickly”.
Part of this article originally appeared on Fin24.