Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa
Dozens of Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWDs) and other Bayelsans numbering in hundreds yesterday stormed the headquarters of Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society at No 1, Otiotio Road in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, demanding for the refund of the monies invested in the cooperative society.
The PWLDs who came in crutches and wheelchairs barricaded the Mbiama-Yenagoa Road for several hours while the able bodied ones who gained entrance to the office carted away office equipment from the office.
This is as the veil of expectations covering over 40,000 Bayelsans who invested in Baraza Multipurpose Cooperative Society may have finally been pulled off their eyes.
Many of them who are now faced with the bitter reality of a failed business venture with glaring indications that their monies may have gone down the drains, expressed their anger at the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Baraza, Pastor Miebi Bribena, an ordained Pastor of Christ Embassy.
Baraza has been struggling to get back on its feet after it slumped into a catastrophic financial crisis where it became unable to pay investors their 25 per cent monthly surpluses for the past four months.
Pastor Bribena, had promised his teaming members that the cooperative would come back on stream on July 19, 2021 and would begin payment with those he called first timers after which others would also be paid but that heightened hopes soon turn to despair after months of patiently waiting for the promised day to come true.
Leader of the PWLDs, Taritimi Warriam, said they would occupy the office of the company till all their demands are met, saying that he personally invested N11 million in the now failed scheme.
“On the first of February, 2021, was when I invested the money but up till now I have not seen a dime from Baraza. After coming to this place on Monday, they asked me to assemble my disable people, that we will be treated specially, which I did but up till today (Friday) we have not seen anything.
“But to my greatest surprise Baraza called me yesterday saying that we should calm down and that he is processing a new platform but nothing yet has happened and we are occupying here until our money is paid.”
“Forget when they tell you people are looting, there is nothing here that is worth what we have invested. I invested N11 million and I was supposed to get 25 per cent of that amount every month but I have not got a dime and so are other persons here.”
Another PWLD, Titity Tariowei, who said he invested N400,000 in both simple and compound interest since November last year, said he was paid for only three months but he was yet to get a dime from the Baraza for over six months.
One Kingsley, who was seen sitting on the bare floor with tears in his eyes, said he invested N3 million and was only paid a month interest of 25 per cent before the payment stop.
THISDAY gathered that the PWLDs have barricaded the headquarters of the company since Monday, threatening to move away a giant soundproof generating set belonging to Baraza in place of their deposited funds.
It took the Mobile Policemen attached to the financial organisation a herculean task to peacefully disperse the aggrieved disabled persons.
When THISDAY visited the premises, it observed that there was a heavy security presence around the two-storey mansion with stern looking, armed security operatives strategically positioned while the Christ Embassy Church, located within the premises has since relocated.
The acting Commissioner of Police, Aminu Alhassan, who was on ground to plead with the protesters, urged them to carry out their protest peacefully without resorting to vandalism.
“From all indications, the account has been frozen, there is even another court case, but what we don’t want them to do is not take the laws into their hands or seek self help,” he said.