MMM – Money, Men, Miasma

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Like all things us, the collapse of MMM would afford many of us the opportunity to gloat, to remind the “victims” that, “I told you”. Wisdom seems to rest with those who did not fall into the temptation of reaping the easy money MMM promised. It was enticing, almost more alluring than any temptation.

You made money for doing nothing other than putting some money into a scheme that makes less sense; the more anyone tries to explain it. MMM proudly proposes that it makes nothing, sells nothing (except promises), it has finally failed to keep.

How can MMM claim it was shutting down operations because of the anticipated high withdrawals from the scheme? Who would not have known Nigerians would like to take out their money for the end of year festivals and pay bills at the beginning of the year?

MMM made no sense. Whether the contributions were small, N5, 000, for instance or N5 million, what both contributions had in common was that they dug holes that could not be filled, even if 180 million Nigerians joined MMM. Each new entrant created more irredeemable debt for the scheme.

If N5, 000 earned just an interest of 30 per cent in a month, MMM had to find N1, 500 to pay as interest. Let us for once leave out the bonuses, and “down the lines”. The N5 million contributor would similarly entrap MMM in a debt of N1.5 million, all these monthly. More contributors (helpers, as they dubbed themselves) meant more debts for MMM. It was doomed to crash.

My concerns are not about the motives of the founders. Their history could tell a lot about their motives. I am very worried about how Nigerians would survive the crash. Blame storming (apologies to Ghanaian President John Mahatma) and blame sharing would not be helpful. Alerts have been issued asking us to watch the behaviour of relations. Suicides are expected. More businesses would collapse with MMM.

Children would be out of school. Some people would fall sick and money for their treatment would be stuck in MMM. Challenges we face would be raised with another wave of anxiety, tension, poverty, grief, hopelessness spread across three million people. The multiplier effect appears to be under rated.

The victims of MMM include all of us who would pay more bills for relations who the disaster hit. We may never know that they participated in the scheme. If we know, we would still pay those bills. The worse victims may be those who never earned a dime from the scheme but would pick the bills from the consequences of its cessation.

MONEY stuck in MMM belongs to individuals, organisations, businesses, and small holders, who could have starved to put money in MMM. Many of them have not heard the news. We can say their reaction is still not part of the story.

MEN (and women) who invested have their stories of successes, some of them possibly made up to justify their involvement, and as in other failed schemes, some made their investments only hours before the public knew MMM had collapsed.

MIASMA of schemes of MMM kind persists. Why do people still patronise them? Do they see the mist? Do they recognise a balloon that keeps being inflated would burst? Do they expect a pyramid that stands on its tip to survive, when it is not a news-writing model?

If you know anyone who was involved in MMM, do not mock him, you would only be adding to his limited choices of ending it all. Let us as Africans, with our deep social tangles, networks, assist them to wean themselves of the impulse to follow easy money. MMM will happen again, is still happening, under different names, different promises, all juicier than what the crashed scheme offered.

Government owes us the responsibility of punishing fraudsters of all shades. The promoters of such schemes in the past three decades went unpunished. Government can do more than saying it warned the victims.

People were behind MMM. They can be found. They should be tried for fraud. We should legislate against MMMs with penalties against promoters as well as investors.

. This piece was first published when glitches, according to its image managers, overwhelmed MMM, in December 2016. The indifference of regulatory authorities remains astounding, one year after people, whose faces were known, spread messages that led millions of Nigerians to lose millions to the scheme. That the authorities know enough to punish the organisers of the scheme is obvious. That they have done nothing is one of the many compromises that ruin Nigeria.

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