Olatunji Olaigbe and Bello MuhammedTaiwo Alao* like many freshmen on campus was on a quest to create additional income when she came across the Secure Your Future Group (SYFG). She also introduced some friends who didn’t join the group due to a lack of funds for the group’s smallest “investment project”, which cost about N38,000 at that moment but currently N44,000. Taiwo Alao, against all odds, started the journey with the SYFG initiative and according to her classmates suddenly made the decision to drop out in her penultimate year in the university. “she said she’s dropping out, we even thought it was a joke until she did” her friend, Tayo* told UCJ UNILORIN. Following recent attempts by the group to recruit more members, especially students of the University of Ilorin, many students of the University have publicly called out the group mainly for invasive methods of operation and education-deluding remarks, but also brainwashing and sham-marketing. Teni, another student that was contacted by the SYFG group reported attempts of “brainwashing”. “They show slides of successful members and counterparts, brainwash them, and finally after getting into their heads, ask them to bring money for registration”, she said. “However, it’s not limited to that, they don’t reveal all they have to do until the first registration.” Another lady who called herself Pineapple claimed to have gotten a call promising her a business grant. She was asked to come for a seminar in Muritala but couldn’t because she was not in Ilorin at the moment. She opted for a zoom webinar which did not work out and later had to visit their office when she was back in Ilorin. “These people invited me and others to a tastelessly tiny hall wannabe and talked about everything but the grant they promised me”, She said. “They showed slides of people in cars and on trips to different countries but never for once mentioned how exactly we’re going to make the said money. After spending what she considered too much time there, Pineapple made to leave but was stopped by a woman who according to Pineapple, attempted to “sermonize” her. “I started abusing them for scamming people in Ilorin under the guise of making money because people are just recovering from an economic breakdown due to the pandemic”, she said. “They didn’t want me to cause a scene so they sent their security to take me off their premises.” Almost all students who spoke with UCJ Unilorin corroborated on one issue: the group was popular for lewd remarks against schooling. ‘They encouraged students to ditch schooling. That it was a waste of time when they can commit their time to Secure The Future and generate massive wealth,” continues Teni. “But I think sometimes, the students don’t intentionally drop out, it’s also as a result of the inability to fund their education due to the ‘investments’ they’ve made to the group.” Sanni Tawakalt, a 400l law student also described the seminar as a means of brainwashing people confirmed that most of the speakers were graduates. “What I observed was that these people were graduates but their subordinates were mostly dropouts,” Sanni told UCJ Unilorin. “I could remember a particular speaker who was a graduate of the University in 2015 claiming to be a multimillionaire through the business and affirming that going to school is taking us nowhere.” “The Secure Your Future Group (SYGF) is a team under Alliance in Motion Global (AIM)”, affirms Miss Oyewole Taofeeqah, a member of SYGF who’s also a graduate of the University of Ilorin. “But the truth is that 90% of people doing the business don’t even understand it.” Taofeeqah attested to making six figures from the organization from January 2021 after joining the group in March 2019 and ‘working it out’ in 2020. “I’ve graduated since 2018 and my certificate has not fetched me 1kobo. My parents took loans to send me to school, should I go back home and be sleeping?” She asked. AIM Global is a company founded in 2006 by three Philippians. The company houses different programs/teams that run on similar models of “Multi-Level Marketing” (MLM) including Longrich, a program popularly renowned for its alternative Asian medicine. Multi-Level Marketing is a business model that thrives not just on the sales of distributors, but also by encouraging salespeople to bring in more salespersons. Thus, salespersons earn not just by the number of sales they make, but also by the amount of goods salesperson they’ve introduced sold. Multi-level Marketing shares similarities with Ponzi schemes so much that in 2017, China carried out a scrutiny campaign on organizations using the business model. The MLM reward system emphasizes aggressively increasing its fleet of supposed distributors rather than improving the sales efficiency of its already large workforce. The crackdown by the Chinese government ended in a succinct verdict: “While direct sales of products are permitted, MLM is prohibited in Chinese mainland.” Unlike Ponzi schemes, however, organizations using the Multi-level Marketing model usually have a concrete product which they are marketing, but distributors under them cannot cut simply by marketing these goods. To make proper money, distributors have to build their profile by registering new distributors under themselves. Notably, Multi-Level Marketing is a business model accredited by several business authorities, including the Better Bureau. Members of the SYGF that spoke with UCJ Unilorin confirmed that the group is registered with the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), but not with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Members of SYGF also claimed that the group’s products were registered with NAFDAC, UCJ Unilorin could not confirm this due to the inaccessibility of NAFDAC’s website. However, we confirmed that their products are not certified by the United States FDA, contrary to some claims. There is also a lack of scientific evidence proving that their products have the medicinal benefits they claim. Sanni Tawakalt, who at the time she encountered SYFG was desperate for an income was called by one of their representatives, informing her that she has been recommended and she is to attend the seminar the following day which she didn’t attend but got her appointment rescheduled.
Many students reported an identical mode of communication. A friend of the targeted students would first inform her that he/she recommended them to the organization. The friend would build apprehension and place the group in high regard by letting them know that it was a privilege to be contacted and they might not be. Later, a member of the group would then contact them, usually through calls, and invite them to a seminar or webinar. Notably, all students who were formerly contacted by a friend were later contacted by the group. There is no observable metric or proof for “choosing” prospects whom they considered worthy of being part of their organization. It is just a lewd marketing tactic. Dele*, a member of UCJ Unilorin who attended their seminar confirmed that prospects were asked to pay an instant amount of N44800 as a start. After payment, he or she will get a product worth over N74000 which includes herbal products and some medical products produced by them. According to an analysis report by John Taylor – titled The Case (for and) against Multi-Level Marketing and published by the United States’ Federal Trade Sentinel (FTC) – less than 1% of participants profit from Multi-Level Marketing. The analysis, which collected data from 350 MLMs companies found out that all of the companies are recruitment driven and the majority of commission paid by MLM companies goes to a tiny percent of promoters at the top of the pyramid – “at the expense of a revolving door of recruits, 99% of whom lose money.”
- The Case (for and) against Multi-Level Marketing.
Asterisked names have been changed at the source’s request.