Cellulant Nigeria Limited has sacked more than 35 employees for allegedly “receiving funds from Agrikore wallets” in an inappropriate manner.
The African FinTech company while elucidating the reason for its action had claimed; “while conducting a compliance review on the Agrikore platform, we identified certain aspects of the compliance infrastructure and control framework of the platform that has not kept up with the platform’s rapid growth.
“An investigation revealed that 14 Agrikore employees had inappropriately received funds from Agrikore wallets. There is no indication that customer funds were compromised”.
However, mere observation of the above statement will reveal “14 Agrikore employees inappropriately received funds from Agrikore wallets” but over 35 staff were sacked! Why?
It is, however, worthy to note that when Cellulant was contacted over the report that more than 35 staff were served pink slips, the company neither deny nor confirm the development.
When asked about what could cause such action by the company, one of the affected staff said; “I learnt their defence was that, aside from the 14 that were sacked, the rest of us resigned willingly; but then, this begs for questions,
“Who would resign willingly at a time like this when there are no jobs and everyone is working hard to keep the job they have?
“How can over 25 staff resign willingly the same day and at the same time? It will be wise to ask the chairman and the chief compliance officer of Cellulant to name the staff that resigned willingly and also share their contacts”.
When contacted on the observed discrepancy, Cellulant’s media representative pleaded for some time to reply.
There was however no response to such effect since two days ago except for the response; “Thank you for your mail. I will get back to you on this” which was sent immediately the first email delivered. A follow-up email has not been replied either.
The ex-staff Cellulant had alleged to have been involved in the misappropriation of funds have however denied the claims.
In their reaction, the ex-staff said the company did not complete its audit before sending them their pick letters.
“Isn’t it suspicious that the chairman of a board of directors will be the one writing partners and staff? Where is management?
“This is already a red flag that there are problems,” an ex-staff said.
“Isn’t it also interesting that a media team will allow a memo to be published on print. It’s an act of desperation to cover up things.
“If there is fraud, companies isolate the issue, investigate, share report of culpability, let people go quietly and business continues. why are they shutting down a business that is supporting food security?
In their previous response, Cellulant had claimed it hired “an independent “Big 4” accounting firm to conduct a complete forensic review of marketplace wallets and a well-respected Nigerian law firm to lead a full, independent investigation of the platform” said; the audit was never completed before they were being served pink letters.
Reacting, the affected employees said; “according to their (Cellulant) response, they said the sacked staffs were involved in some sharp practices, right? But is it possible to sack somebody when you are still conducting forensic audit?
“We were suspended 2nd September and by 15th September, our appointments were terminated without the conclusion of the forensic audit.
“Why are they in a haste to sack us. At least, they should have completed the audit which would have revealed if we are guilty of the allegation.”
When asked about what they think could inspire such action, the employees said they were still dazzled but “suspected it as a ploy to bring in new people loyal to the chairman, board of directors and the chief compliance officer”.
On further probing of these ex-employees on why the need for such action? Is it that such will bring in more profit for the company or it is suspected they are loyal to a particular person or faction the company is trying to handicap.
They alleged that the action was taken due to “unhealthy corporate governance practices by the board of directors and the group compliance unit led by one Mr Solomon Abiakalam.”
When asked to elucidate their allegation, they said; “Looking at this situation the following are suspicions:
“1. Cellulant is under a hard hand doing everything to take over the business and discredit the founders.
“2. Someone is using the chief compliance officer to paint the co-founder and people connected to him as lacking in integrity
“3. There is a possibility that a hijack is planned and the chief compliance officer is the one delivering the ploy
“4. Or Cellulant is hiding something and working quickly to cover it up.”
”5. We believe the board has been threatened of the Nigerian founder ever since he raised a significant amount of money”
“Whatever results from the fake audit is discredited as there are no results of any wrongdoing and the company without Mr Bolaji is just headed for destruction.
“How can a founder of Mr Bolaji’s achievement and experience step down and the board allowed him to go? They have a plan and everything will unfold.”
However, in its response, Cellulant said all allegations by the ex-employees were “false and unfounded”.
Cellulant was founded in 2004 by Nigeria’s Bolaji Akinboro with Co-CEO Ken Njoroge from Kenya and in 2018, received the largest investment in the history of fintech companies in Africa with dominant market position across 12 Sub-Saharan countries – Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi.
According to Crunchbase, the company had its first Venture Capital Round on October 1, 2011, raising $1.5m.
It raised $5.5 million in Series B funding on February 17, 2014. The largest money ($47.5) was raised on May 14, 2018, in its Series C funding.
One would think a company with this potential would be gearing towards an IPO at the moment, instead of the crisis embattling its leadership.
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