“As things stand, we are still awaiting disbursement of funds. Last week I (CEO) participated in a series of meetings regarding the disbursement of these funds and assurance and reassurance was given that we will get this fund before the end of this year (2021)…”
The words above are from Farmsponsor, an agricultural crowdfunding platform that says it has a mandate to promote food security in Africa when it met with investor representatives on December 12, 2021. The company, which is owned by two brothers : Chike E Akpa and Innocent N. Akpa (aka Bill Kenneth) promised investors a 250% return on investment over the long term (five years) and a 15% return on investment on short term cycles (3 months ).
Every day, as the lines continue to ring through the minds of over four thousand investors who have been repeatedly rejected by Farmsponsor, one important question clouding the minds of many is, “Are Farmsponsor co-founders playing games with investors?”
Not only did the company fail to deliver on its promises, but its co-founders also stopped communicating with members, suspending Zoom calls with investors and not responding to questions about how and when the program would help end pain. suffered by investors.
At the time of this report, Nairametrics understood that after almost a year since it started defaulting in July 2021, the platform has continued to make empty promises and give investors false hope.
In July 2021, the platform explained that it had seen its operations destabilized due to the sudden ban on crowdfunding operations by the Security and Exchange Commission.
The statement said in part: “The past few days have been quite a challenge as the company has faced challenges that have destabilized our crowdfunding operations. These challenges stem from the SEC’s recent announcement of a shutdown of all crowdfunding platforms by June 30, 2021. This has made it impossible for the farm sponsor to continue with its overcrowding operation as the notice to us is arrived suddenly, during the first week of June.
“We are taking appropriate steps to ensure that all funds raised from each sponsor are reimbursed accordingly. Please be patient as payments will likely be staggered. We try to make payment as quick as possible, but to be honest it can take up to 18-24 months. Paying everyone at once will eat into our operational cash too deeply. Let’s keep working to pay you.
Clearly the Covid pandemic coupled with the SEC policy ordering crowdfunding firms to register or cease operations by the end of June last year had generally affected companies and farms in particular, causing many companies in this line to suffer disastrous consequences and subsequently affecting payment to investors.
However, while some platforms are seen to be actively strategizing on possible solutions to resolve the mess as soon as possible, it appears that others, like Farmsponsors, have been playing on investor intelligence.
While it’s easy to argue that the reason for not honoring the promise to pay could be related to the inability to get loans as promised, it’s important to note that the company hasn’t responded to the call for an interim takeover by another management company.
Further, the company also failed to respond to investors’ requests for an independent forensic audit to trace all assets purchased with investor funds. As a result, many investors are of the opinion that the brothers’ insincerity could mean that the platform may have been launched with the intention of a Ponzi scheme all along.
As of today’s press, investors say there is still no clear direction on exactly when they will be paid. “I guess the loan story is either wrong or he didn’t understand it and decided to excommunicate the investors in 2022 instead of liquidating his business,” an investor told Nairametrics.
What investors are saying
In 2020, Ayoola Ogundele took the decision to invest 1 million naira in Farmsponsor. This was a long-term investment (5 years) with an expected return of 250% in five years – return on investment to be paid every 6 months. He had seen reviews of the platform on social media and was even more convinced when he saw posts confirming that the company has automated poultry equipment online. But Ayo only received a 37% ROI for the first year; and until today, its initial capital plus the remaining return on investment are still suspended.
Similar to the case of Ogundele, several investors who have invested millions in the brother’s business have expressed dissatisfaction with the continued inability to pay investors and reach out to investors. @Jaboyka on social media said: “Farmsponsor has completely cut off communication with its investors. I don’t understand why you encourage people to make investments and close the door to them when they need information on the state of their funds? »
Same old story
On February 13, 2022, Akpa Innocent (Bill Kenneth) on a channel told Nairametrics that he was hiring sponsors to make sure everyone gets paid.
“We’ve also continued to engage with sponsors both privately and as a group, on the efforts we’re making to make sure we’re paying everyone. We can be bold in saying that the wait is almost over, we are still in business and our productivity at the farm, factory and hatchery has continued to increase,” he said.
Speaking about why the company cut off communications with investors, he said: “The last virtual meeting with investors did not take place due to technical problems. We hope to resolve this issue as soon as possible to enable us to continue communicating with investors through this channel. We also call on all sponsors to maintain their good support and be a little more patient as we swim through this murky water of growing our business.
However, when contacted by Nairametrics recently, Akpa did not explain why Farmsponsor was unable to deliver on its promises.
What investors want
According to the agenda of the meeting of January 9, 2022, investors are making a number of requests to the company:
- The investors request an interim takeover of the company by another management company/natural person. They are tired of waiting for loans that are not granted.
- Investors request an inventory of all farms and assets from Farmsponsor as they would like to physically visit the sites.
- Investors require an independent forensic audit to trace all assets purchased with investor funds.
- Investors are calling for a town hall meeting with CEOs.
- Investors want to know the state of the company.
- Investors want to know exactly when the drawdown will begin and when investors will receive their funds.
- Investors want to know when an official communication will be sent to investors regarding the return of their investment.
The Nigerian crowdfunding space appears to be changing direction, presenting a vague future for the business, due to failing operations. This has fueled a growing sense of pessimism towards the crowdfunding industry in the country.
From Farm Power to Payfarmer, Goldvest, Emerald farms, Vestpay, HO Corn, FarmKonnect, Farmsponsor and an endless list of companies, these platforms known to finance projects or companies by raising funds from a large number of people who contribute relatively small amounts, usually via the Internet, have defaulted or delayed payments from investment funds, alongside the return on investment (ROI) to investors.
Given this, stakeholders are worried and raising questions about why crowdfunding seems to be failing in Nigeria, what the future holds for crowdfunding in the country, and whether crowdfunding is really working in Nigeria?