Daily Trust investigation was privy to over 9,000 names captured in excel sheets as those who have paid N300 each to a group of Nigerians who claimed to be officials of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called “Honeycomb Foundation” and assigned by the Nigerian government to collect the data of beneficiaries.
The group has created at least three WhatsApp accounts which invite individuals to join a group titled, ‘GOVT. PALLIATIVE GROUP,’ assuring them that they would be captured among beneficiaries of the federal government’s palliative.
This reporter found each of the three groups had been filled to the maximum WhatsApp capacity of 1,022 members. Each member is then asked to pay N300 into an individual Access Bank account belonging to one Ezeasor Andrew Chukwudi before their names are enlisted.
Checks by this newspaper revealed that Ezeasor Andrew Chukwudi who receives the funds is in charge of capturing and data collection. He is also the CEO of Anchez Ventures Limited which, according to the Cooperate Affairs Commission, was incorporated in Lagos Island, Nigeria with registration number 421338 and its current status is unknown. His ‘business partner’ Alhaji Engr Abubakar A. Khalid is said to be the team lead and encourages members to pay N300 to get enlisted.
Daily Trust reports that the National Assembly had in July given the federal government approval to obtain a $800 million loan from the World Bank to provide palliatives for the most vulnerable Nigerians, due to the harsh effects of the removal of petroleum subsidy.
Many Nigerians are eager to get enlisted for the government palliative. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had stated that N25,000 would be disbursed to 15m households for three months, through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management.
In a recent interview, the National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer of the National Social Investment Programmes Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu, said there are different categories of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) that will be disbursed to vulnerable and low-income households across the country.
She said enrollees of the first category would receive N5,000 each, as part of efforts by the federal government to alleviate poverty. The other category, according to Shehu, is described as ‘livelihood,’ where beneficiaries will receive N150,000 each to start small or medium-scale businesses after they undergo vocational training.
However, this investigation reveals how some fraudulent groups have taken advantage of these government pronouncements to dupe Nigerians in the guise of getting them enlisted for the federal government palliatives.
How the group operates
To get access to the WhatsApp group, our reporter paid the mandatory N300 after reaching out to Alhaji A. A. Khalid, the team lead, to enquire about the group’s motive and how to join.
Khalid, whose identity could not be confirmed by Daily Trust, responded: “It is for capturing data for the federal government palliative.”
This reporter spoke to many members of the group who paid N300 in the hope of getting enlisted, and they acknowledged that it was a worthy gamble.
A discussion with a colleague who shared the group’s link with this reporter argued that, “It’s 50/50 true or fake, take a gamble, it’s N300; it won’t remove anything from you.” Another member of the group said, “People are still paying; thank God it is N300.”
Because WhatsApp’s policy has a maximum of 1,022 members, this reporter gathered that two previous groups had been filled up before he joined the third group.
Details needed after the N300 payment are first name, other name, phone no., date of birth, bank name, acc. no, state of residence, state of origin, and LGA of origin. It categorically stated that USSD proofs of payment are not allowed.
However, it was observed that while many continued to make payments, a cross-section of members were skeptical as to the legitimacy of the group.
A member of Group 3 told this reporter that he believes the process is a scam as there are several errors in the data arrangements. He stated, in multiple WhatsApp messages, that: “They made a mistake on my account number, maybe they are a scam, they changed all my friends’ accounts, and gave them other accounts; they sent another one but my name was not there.”
Another member contacted for clarification on the authenticity of the list said she believed in it. “There are some lists that have come out and those that registered, all their names are here, they will pay, but based on six months or three months,” she said.
It was also observed that those who raised doubts about the authenticity of the process were delisted from the group. This reporter noticed that the group administrator clears any issue raised by members concerning the scattered name list and threatens that any person who complains will be removed from the group.
We were tasked by FG – Group alleged
The coordinators claim to be officials of an NGO called ‘Honeycomb Foundation’ and assigned by the Nigerian government to collect the data of beneficiaries. However, when asked which category of the social investment programmes they were compiling the data for, Khalid who is the team lead insisted that they were assigned to compile the data of enrollees who paid N300 by the federal government.
While replying via WhatsApp with his phone number 07062004514, Khalid stated: “It’s a federal government palliative for 15m Nigerians. We are an NGO sourcing data for them to verify and pay those people. They equally asked us to collect N300 each. N250 is for remita to enable them to verify you and it will be returned to you but N50 for bank charges will not be returned. Our NGO is HONEYCOMB FOUNDATION. You can check it out.”
He equally disclosed that the “October batch” had closed and the group was now capturing names for the November batch payment.”
When contacted via WhatsApp, his ally, Ezeasor Andrew Chukwudi, with the number 08082843540 said the same thing.
Alleged fraudsters make over N2.7 million in days
This reporter came across comprehensive excel lists of thousands of names; with the highest list containing 4,059 names of those who have paid N300 to get enlisted. A compilation of the five lists gave a total of 9,175 names, all of which have paid N300 to the group.
Daily Trust reports that the group has been able to garner at least N2,752,500 from the 9,175 enrollees in the last few days. However, further investigation revealed that the group was still getting more Nigerians to enroll through new WhatsApp groups.
FG disowns group, asks Nigerians to report them to police
When presented with the findings of this investigation, the National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO) informed Daily Trust that they had identified several other groups who engage in defrauding Nigerians and have issued a disclaimer on their social media pages.
The National Communication Officer of NCTO, Shikfu Shimang, shared with this reporter a message from the agency’s Facebook handle which reads: “The Government of Nigeria is currently not asking people to fill out forms on social media or unofficial websites to be able to benefit from the Renewed Hope Conditional Cash Transfer.”
Speaking further on this, the State Training and Communication Officer of the CCT unit in Zamfara State, Dr Nasir Jafar, said no one has been asked to collect money on behalf of the government, adding that the agency has received a series of complaints and presented them to the head office where they will take drastic action.
“None of the beneficiaries is asked to pay a dime, a single kobo for either data capture or data enrolment. This is not part of the process and this is a crime. To open or create an online platform from social handles, either WhatsApp, Facebook, or Twitter, to collect a dime from the hands of people, we don’t know about this. This is automatically out of the process,” he said.
Daily Trust also obtained a statement issued by the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) disregarding similar web portals in circulation and urged Nigerians to report such persons to security agents.
What we are doing is not illegal – Group insists
Reverting to Ezeasor, he insisted that he was recruited by an NGO to collect the N300 out of which he would forward N250 to them. He said he had proof of payment to ‘Honeycomb Multipurpose Co-operative’ for each cluster.
“I have no idea which of the agencies asked them to collect the money. I’m just employed by the NGO for this purpose, and they told us N50 is for our logistics. I am not the only one in this,” he said.
He also insisted that there’s nothing to fear, believing that what they are doing “is not illegal.”
A proof of payment shared by Andrew showed the name of the beneficiary account as ‘Honeycomb Multipurpose Co-operative’ and a payment of N750,000 had been made to them by Ezeasor on October 1, 2023.
However, Daily Trust ran several searches on CAC to identify the company’s legitimacy, but it came back with nothing both on the CAC registry and search engines.
Nevertheless, this reporter found many results with the name ‘Honeycomb’ which are all foreign-based. It also found that ‘Honeycomb Foundation’ is a foreign NGO that focuses on empowering people with disabilities, primarily those living with spinal cord injuries in developing countries, according to their mission statement.
A search on their website https://honeycombfoundation.org/ shows that the NGO is based in the USA. This reporter also reached the organisation via email at firstname.lastname@example.org but at the time of filing this report, it had yet to revert.
However, Khalid refused to speak with this reporter and removed him from the platform. He also failed to explain via phone or WhatsApp which of the government agencies asked them to collect the data and N300.