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Multilevel marketing as hideout for swindlers



Multilevel marketing as hideout for swindlers

With unemployment hitting Nigerian youths hard, fraudsters are devising various methods to either swindle them or make them work under difficult and harsh conditions. JOSEPH AGUMAGU reports

If there is one commodity that is definitely not in short supply in Nigeria today, it is the ingenuity of some persons to contrive clever schemes just to take undue advantage of many vulnerable persons who are desperate to escape the ever-swelling pool of unemployment.

After being swindled, juicy promises, bogus claims and well-doctored success stories are meals regularly fed to the gullible unemployed youths out there who found themselves in the den of some operators of multilevel marketing in Nigeria.   

The journey often begins with an unsuspecting job applicant responding to unsolicited text messages, adverts on wall posters or leaflets handed to him until he is eventually lured, with a promise of lucrative job offer, into a hideout where they are recruited into multilevel marketing after being brainwashed and extorted.

Quite sadly, for them to qualify for bogus financial benefits, family members, friends and neighbours are the first set of victims they are cajoled to enlist in the endless chain of fortune-seekers. Often than not, they are left utterly frustrated at the end of the day, leading to strained relationships and loss of trust.

Modus operandi

Apart from pasting job adverts on walls or distributing handbills in public places, multilevel marketers often capitalise on the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) magazines where names and phone numbers of outgoing corps members are published quarterly in different states. This is a rich source of data for them to send unsolicited text messages.

With allowance in the pocket and the right degree of desperation for job, corps members become prime target for the antics of multilevel marketers.

Victims’ experience

Damola Oguntoki, who now runs a thriving poultry farm, recounted his story with New Telegraph on how he received an unsolicited text message on his phone, inviting him for a job interview few months after completing his National Youth Service Corps programme. 

“At the beginning, my feelings were mixed when I saw the message on my phone since I knew I didn’t apply for the job. After much persuasion from family members, I decided to honour the invitation. Of course, transport was not a challenge then since I still had some savings from my NYSC allowance,” he said.

Oguntoki remarked that they were told to maintain hushed silence and warned not to speak with one another at the venue of the interview.   

After asking them a few questions, they were told to wait for the managing director, a lady, to speak to them, which later became a motivational session on multilevel marketing.

“She did nothing than to show us pictures of her trip to countries such as Philippines, Dubai, Malaysia, her black Prado Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), the worth of her attire and make up. She made us understand that we could achieve all these in few years if only we can make sacrifices and pay her dues to coach us,” he said.

They were coaxed to part with some amount of money for them to be trained for the job they were invited for.

“The price for the training is N50, 000 but it was later reduced to N10,000. I paid N1000 for business name registration and licence to practice as a member,” he added.

However, when Damola discovered it was multilevel marketing he never went back even after receiving a text message.

Also, Barrister Ruth Udoh, who spoke with this newspaper recounted her experience on how she was invited for an interview through a text message at Agidingbi area of Ikeja, Lagos; even though she never applied for any job then.

“A lady had called me earlier to allay my fears. I entered the premises and met several other young people, of over 30 in number, apparently with similar mission as mine. I then registered my presence on the attendance sheet. I was ushered to an empty seat, and couldn’t help but observe the stillness of the environment and the calmness of the interviewees. 

“Each person kept to himself, and the usher discouraged any form of interaction among us, or any perceived undue body movements. She repeated that everyone should be on their best, as there were CCTV cameras positioned everywhere, and that our interview session commenced the moment each person came in from the main gate. I was greatly amazed,” she said.

Udoh narrated how she was later transferred to another session of the building where the interview was to be conducted proper only to discover that it was a motivational video they were to watch.

“It was a motivational video about one of Nigeria’s successful business elites and another one on success nuggets by Rev. Sam Adeyemi,” she noted.

Moreso, she said that it was after their appetite was unduly whetted that they began to introduce multilevel marketing to them, which sparked anger in some candidates. 

“I saw two ladies walk out angrily eventually. I was also fatigued, drained emotionally and intellectually, and somewhat displeased that I had fallen into the unsuspecting grip of marketing recruiters. I made up my mind to leave at once, and I stood up and left the place. But some other persons stayed,” she said.


Undercover investigation

As part of the background facts for this story, our correspondent responded to an advert on a wall poster and was immediately invited for an interview somewhere at second Pedro Bus Stop along Oshodi express way, for some other persons, the bait could be oil and gas job interview or a factory job interview.

Stepping into the vicinity of the American company he was to be interviewed, whose logo had a bright green leaf, he met a rendezvous of young fortune-seekers, between the ages of 16 and 25years, who huddled together deliberating on the next bait for victims as gimmickry and persistence had been the rule of the game.

The young man who was to conduct the interview upstairs smiled brightly, asked the ‘job seeker’ to switch off his phone and said: “Mr. Joseph, do you want to be rich or stay poor? Do you want to enjoy financial freedom or you want to be a slave forever to salary?”

This opened the floor for endless jabbering on how multilevel marketing is the lifeline needed to port from poverty to Eldorado; whereas, self-employed persons and salaried workers are severely lampooned for choosing poverty, with academic qualifications becoming a constant object of ridicule.

After regaling his target with their grace-to-grace stories, with pictures to support their claims, he cajoled him to fill a form and pay the sum of N14,000 for registration and for the “working-kit,” a handbag that contained two health products and magazines and was also told he could pay in instalments.

However, when payment wasn’t forthcoming from, even after much persuasions to drop at least N1,000 to show commitment, the correspondent was transferred to another man who continued with the cajoling.

“Mr. Joseph, I came from a very poor background. I was a mere cleaner but God has changed my story through this business today. Please I want to see you succeed, too. Try to pay the money, and we will work with you to help you succeed,” he said.

Eventually, a classroom somewhere in Gbagada was located where other fortune-seekers meet daily for lectures and where he was further subjected to more of the brainwashing on how he could build his fortune by luring other persons to the group.   

To confirm their desperation, attempt by the ‘job seeker; to depart the location fell on deaf ears as he was only allowed to regain his freedom after promising to come back for more lectures in subsequent days.


Legal implication

The audacity of operators of multilevel marketing in taking undue advantage of job-seekers in Nigeria does have legal implication.

  “It is believed that if such multilevel marketers are abreast with the law, then they would be wary as to how they induce people with false statements and hope of securing well-paying jobs not within their capacity.” Barrister Udoh said.

Hence, it could be a case of “false misrepresentation,” and if properly argued in court, could result to recruiters securing the job they invited job-seekers for.

According to Barrister Stanley Mudjere, the applicant can have legal remedy if he or she suffers a loss as a result of this.

“If for instance, the person traveled from a far distance, maybe from another state or the person as a result of attending the programme suffered a fatal loss, in that case, he might have legal remedy based on the injury he suffered as a result of him attending the programme,” he noted.


Last line                                              

Many desperate job-seekers out there have fallen into the traps of swindlers. Therefore, it has become imperative for appropriate authorities to checkmate the activities of operators of multilevel marketing, who take undue advantage of job-seekers in Nigeria.

There is also need for unemployed youths to begin to look inwards and be creative instead of depending on people for jobs.

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