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Fraud alert, Lagosians beware!


• Illegality, fraud and crime
For those addicted to betting and raffle draws, it is a thin line between winning and being defrauded. And watching out for the latter is an Achilles heel, especially for the greedy and gullible.

In Lagos, fraudsters go about organising raffle draws that anyone, except their cronies, gets to win. And if by chance any outsider gets to win, the process of collecting the prize is dotted with bubby traps.

For as long as traders around could remember, a group of men have made the Idumota roundabout in Lagos Island their based for perpetuating fraud, in the name of raffle draw.

These fraudsters operate in a Vanagon bus filled with items, such as television sets, radios, blenders and standing fans, with the inscription, J.I. Promotions Ltd (Govt Approved) on the bus, with registration number AKD 227 XK.

From a firsthand experience, after listening to lamentations of victims, The Guardian approached the operators and was given a card to scratch at no cost, saying what is written inside of what the winner would take home. A scratch and inside was written, television set.

But they demanded N1, 000 for “clearance” and as you paid, they asked for more money. The moment you told them you didn’t have any more money and that you were no longer interested and needed your money back, some terrible-looking roughnecks emerged from nowhere, threatening to beat you up if you didn’t leave the place immediately.

Another victim, Odinaka Lawson, narrated his experience: “I was duped N3, 000. Someone walked up to me and told me that the government is doing a promo, he even showed me the inscription on the bus.

“He gave me a card to scratch and anything I find is what I will win. I did and it was a television set. He took me to the bus, where his other gang members were and I was then asked to pay N3, 000 to collect it. I did and he told me that I would have to pay an additional N2, 000, which I refused.

“I then asked him to give my money back to me. Immediately, they gathered together and asked me to leave if I like my life.

“What gave me the boldness to play in the first place was because of the “govt approved” inscription I saw on the bus. This is criminality.”

Some traders in the vicinity, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that the agents have been there for as long they could remember, with some saying 10 years and others saying over 10 years.

Asked if she had won or seen anyone who had won anything before, one of the victims standing by, who did not want his name in print, said: “Nobody has ever won anything. What do you want to win? Those things they displayed in the bus are just there for gimmicks. They are fraudsters. They make so much money by defrauding people on a daily basis.”

A lady, who simply identified herself as Iyabeji, added that the operators also defraud people by selling fake items.

“What they do is that they open an Ankara material, put some cartons in the middle and wrap it. Then, they tell unsuspecting customers that it is six yards. The customer buys it, only to see that he/she had been tricked.

“If you are smart enough to tell them to open it there, so you can check to be sure it is complete, they will say, ‘I am leaving, council people are coming (abeg I don dey go, council people dey come)’ and that is how they will disappear.”

Another trader, Ayotunde Salami, explained that there was a time they were known for selling stones in place of wristwatches.

“They will wear a wristwatch and market it. As soon as you pay for it, they will replace it with stones. You will never know until you get home.”

She added that at a time, they were sent away, but came back not long after.

Some other people around said “it happens so fast,” as if the victims are hypnotised.

The “Govt Approved” inscription on their vehicle is used to hoodwink unsuspecting victims, especially during festive periods, smiling to the bank, while the victims are left to count their losses.

A check on Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) website showed that the company was actually registered, with RC number 645549, located at 16, Adekoya Street, Oshodi, Lagos.

But a visit to the above address indicated a residential building with some shops in front.

A call to the National Lotteries Regulatory Commission (NLRC) further revealled that the company is not licenced to carry out promotional services, as its name is not listed on NLRC website.

Another check on the Lagos State Lotteries Board (LSLB) website also showed that J.I. Promotions Limited is not listed as one of the companies licensed to carry out promotional services.

A check on Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) vehicle identification system showed the registration number to be valid and assigned to a Vanagon, exactly like the one bearing J.I. Promotions Limited.

What is baffling is that these fraudsters have been ripping off Lagosians for so many years unchecked. The fact that the company was registered in February 2006 further cements the argument that the conmen may have been there for as long as 10 years.

Some of the victims and traders alleged that the Police was aware of their activities.

In his reaction, Lagos State Police Command spokesman, Chike Oti, said it is possible for the Police to be unaware of the presence of these hoodlums, but they (the Police) don’t meddle in people’s legal business unless they are invited or alerted by citizens, especially in cases to do with crime.

This might be why some of the victims and respondents were skeptical of the Police doing anything about the fraudsters.

One of them said: “These people have been there for a very long time. Do you think writing about them would make them leave that place? Do you think the Police don’t know that they are there? Or you think people haven’t reported them and nothing was done? Please, don’t waste your time.”

A trader nearby stated that only gullible and greedy people fall for such tricks; hence it should not be an issue, urging people not to be greedy.

It remains to be seen how the Police and other agencies concerned can put a stop to the activities of these fraudster and save Lagosians from further rip off.

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