Profiteering from not-for-profit schemes

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ACTIVITIES of some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have called for more scrutiny than before now.

NOTWITHSTANDING that NGOs play big roles in complementing government’s efforts towards the better living of society to humanity, and their inputs as non-state actors are huge to the extent that they cannot be discountenanced, what some of them do these days are worrisome.

  FROM such institutional NGOs as the Red Cross Society to the  privately owned NGOs, that section of the society demonstrated that addressing problems of humanity does not have to be solely on the shoulders of government but by collective contributions of all, given that the society belongs to the people.

MANY NGOs have evolved in Nigeria, with reputation for rendering one service or the other to society. While many are duly registered and recognised for operations in the country, some others exist without proper recognition. Exponents of NGOs believe their activities have    also yielded freedom to many captives, enthroned peace and affected the populace in many positive ways.

HEART to Heart Foundation, a venture promoted by one of Nigeria’s biggest figures in sports, is one of the many NGOs that society has leveraged from their services to solve their many health challenges.  Findings show that they have provided health assistance, advisories and treatment of diseases to many people that accessed their health services.

KANU Nwankwo Heart Foundation is one NGO that has affected many lives in Africa positively. While hospitals in his home country, Nigeria, could not boast of reliable heart surgery and transplanting centres and equipment at a time he suffered a weak- vulvar heart problem that nearly ended his football career in November, 1996, a London hospital came to his rescue.  

  HE came out successful from that heart surgery but his experience taught him that many people back home in Africa may have died of a similar health challenge given that they may not have access to or be able to foot the bill for such a treatment.

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Hence, the birth of Kanu Heart Foundation. Consequently, many victims of heart related problems have been saved from untimely deaths, courtesy of the body.

VIRTUOUS Widows Association is equally an NGO that provides sucour to widows.  They help them (widows) acquire skills for self-reliance and empower them with facilities relevant to upscaling their living standard. Their presence has been gaining recognition within Lagos and Anambra state in the past three decades.

MORE NGOs abound in the society with several noble missions and visions. One common feature in all of them is their charity posture and promises of affecting people’s lives positively but some bodies now exploit the reputations of credible NGOs to rip off society. Their promoters pose as altruistic nobles whereas their acts leave a lot to desire.

CURRENTLY, the trend is to exploit people’s healthcare needs or prey on their religious fantasies. Presently, a particular NGO that operates in Anambra has teeming religious followers as a result of health services they promise to render to the public freely which is yet to be seen. There are several of such schemes around and their modes of operation are similar.

They hubble to the undiscerning with phantom charity and fake care. They would pose as providers of consultancy services to members of the public on numerous health challenging issues.

On first call, they would prescribe and administer drugs, provide treatment for say eye and dental problems, fibroid, infertility issues, arthritis, hepatitis and many other common health challenges. Given the trust they garner over months of smooth talk and high faulting promotions, they command teeming followership.

In the case of Anambra for example, they have vibrant bases in parts of Onitsha, Ekwulobia, Nnewi, among others where they are embedded in communal groups as investigation has revealed.

THE inroads they have made into many communities  as a result of their keying into people’s areas of need pay off hugely to the extent that they lose their guards and pay less attention to their extortions and the various monetary costs of their services. For instance, they invite members of the public for free medical services as a not-for-profit NGO but end up selling drugs to them and collecting consultancy fee of N500  from the participants.

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  THE amount may sound little but when aggregated with the huge number of people that throng to access the ‘free’ medical services, the money turns into a big sum.  They run this exercise on weekly basis and one can imagine how much they rake-in in say a month, even when their exercise is dubbed charity work.

BEYOND Anambra and the South East, this trend of exploiting the masses on the guise of charity seems global now.

HUSHPUPPI is a Nigerian-born American, based in United Arab Emirates. He was recently nabbed by FBI for defrauding 109 million people through a phantom charity organisation he floated. He and his cohorts played on the gullibility of the people, taking Messianic postures only to milk them dry.

SEVERAL cases of such fraudulent charity schemes abound. Shockingly, many of the foundations floated in such  countries as Nigeria have their donor partners abroad. Inquiry shows that some of the foreign associates would provide the materials freely to help humanity in need but there local partners would sell them here

INDEED, as long as there are natural and artificial challenges in the society, there will be need for humanitarian assistance. It is therefore surprising that despite receiving hugely from the benefactors, the fake NGOs opt to con the unsuspecting public by selling the items to them and pocketing the ill-proceeds. Most worrisome is that virtually all these organisations come with the pretext and appellation of charity organisations. A cleric once confessed to selling drugs they received free-of-charge from donor partners in Israel, at relatively exorbitant rates to unsuspecting Nigerians.

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ACCORDING to the cleric (name withheld), due to the drugs’ efficacy, the demand soared high and they continued raking-in money from the sales while receiving further supplies from donor partners abroad freely for charity purposes.

SHOCKINGLY, due to the public perception of these groups, they engage workers on volunteer basis and where necessary, pay far less than what employees in their category should earn.

WHEN conscience dies, morality flees. While Nigerians allow many abuses, it is morally debasing and intellectually demeaning to convert charity organisations into personal estates or profiteering ventures. More so, when such devious acts are perpetrated by those saddled with great public trust to interface with the needy.

HOWEVER, a society gets a crime it prepares itself for because if the society does not look for cheap charity, it would not fall for the antics of such tricksters. It should be sifted here that poverty could be a compelling factor as people who cannot afford full medical services jump to such alternatives as such untenable charity lures and get ripped off in the process.

NATIONAL Light believes that it is high time activities of NGOs be more critically monitored to save vulnerable public from being coned. There is a need for government to provide adequate social amenities. There is need for such groups to operate within the ambits of the law. There is also need for enforcement of laws no matter how loose or strict the rules guiding their operations are.

WE call for broad legislation on their operational scope and licensing to keep all their activities in proper check, while full penalties be meted on those who hide under charity and obtain from the public by tricks.

MORESO, morals from home and churches should guide the conducts of people to let them value humanity above materialism but induction on such moral values must start from how parents bring up their children. So, homes should help the larger society now.

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