Harrison Osemwengie, the founder of HO Corn, was featured on Channels Television’s Saturday Sunrise in February 2020. Desmond (not real name) watched him talk about his firm’s offer of a 50 percent return on investment (ROI) after six months to anyone willing to take advantage of it. However, no promised ROI would be paid.
THE TALE OF AN INVESTOR
Desmond told FIJ that the presenter asked the CEO if his business would be able to afford the outrageous returns.
“I remember the presenter asking Osemwengie if he was sure his company would be able to pay the agreed 50 percent ROI to its subscribers upon the maturity of their investments, and he said yes,” the investor revealed.
He stated that while it is not easy to draw him to tempting investment offers, he felt reassured by the fact that the CEO went on national television to talk about the investment offer and tell the public that the business was well insured in the event of a disaster.
“The impression I had was that if a TV station as big as that could bring such a person on its programme, whatever the person offered was credible. So, I decided to start with N100,000 that same February,” he said.
Desmond said he told his colleagues about the opportunity with excitement.
“The only saving grace I had, however, was that I held on to monitor the progress of the payment I’d made to the company. If not, I would have been instrumental in making them fall victim to the scam as well, and that would have been very embarrassing,” said the investor.
According to Desmond, HO Corn Farm appeared to be organised as it would regularly exchange correspondence with its investors, just to give them the assurance that they were in the right hands.
“They would also send pictures of corn plantations that apparently never belonged to them to convince people that the investment was going on smoothly,” stated Desmond.
NON-PAYMENT OF ROIs
In July 2020, investors began to complain about non-payment of promised ROIs, raising doubts about the company’s authenticity.
“When this happened, HO Corn quickly issued a statement blaming the pandemic and the lockdown for its inability to make payment. It, however, promised that by August, investors would get their money,” another investor, who asked not to be named, told FIJ.
The investor said the promised payments were not made in August.
“At this point, we noticed that the company had not only barred people from making comments on its Instagram page but also hired proxy agents to discredit and counter people’s comments on its Facebook page,” she said.
“If you visited the page to say you had not been paid,a proxy account would come under your comment to say he or she had just been paid and that you should stop spreading falsehood. The moment you checked the profile, you’d discover it was a fake account with no posts or pictures.”
ANOTHER EMPTY PROMISE
In December 2020, HO Corn released another statement pledging capital and interest to investors.
“In May, we still did not get anything. As a matter of fact, that was the last time we heard from the company. I know people who put their pension and life savings in this investment. Apparently, all is now gone. In my own estimation, the company must have robbed investors of billions of naira,” added Desmond.
The investor also stated that he had attempted to reach out to Channels TV on subsequent programmes to draw their attention to the fraudulent activities of the company, but without success.
THE PRESENT SITUATION
FIJ’s independent investigation revealed that the company left its third-floor office at the Africa Reinsurance Building, Karimu Kotun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, without informing its investors. Despite mentioning that the company had 30,000 acres of farmland in Ofiki, near Iseyin in Oyo State, it was established in December 2020 by curious investors, that the land being used as a cornfield by the company was not as big as it was claimed.
“No one has heard from Mr Osemwengie since the crisis started. We do not even know his whereabouts. No one is certain whether he is still in the country,” another investor said.
FIJ made several calls to the phone numbers on the company’s website, but they were not available. Text messages sent to the lines were not responded to as well.