Here are the Major Scandals that Rocked the Techspace in 2020
Quite a lot happened in the tech space during the course of the year. Startups raised major funding, expanded into new countries and sectors, while some died off in the same space of time. But while these encouraging trends took place, some not-so-encouraging ones also transpired within the space.
The major occurrences that painted the tech sector in unflattering colours this year range from sexual harassment scandals to cases of fraud and misappropriation of funds. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest ones.
Kendall Ananyi vs Kelechi Udoagwu
Just around the middle of the year, the campaign against rape and sexual assault heated up on social media due to the rising number of cases popping up around the country. It was at this time that Kelechi Udoagwu, a tech communications strategist, spoke up about her sour experience with Tizeti CEO, Kendall Ananyi.
What you should know
The event itself happened while Kelechi Udoagwu went for a mentorship programme over at MEST Africa where Kendall Ananyi was a mentor. Even though this was supposed to be a strictly professional mentor-mentee relationship, Kelechi insists Kendall had a little more than that in mind.
In what would later lead to Kendall stepping down as CEO of Tizeti, Kelechi alleged in a tweet that he “pulled out and put his d**k in my hands in the bright afternoon, begging me for anything I could do.”
What gave a more sour taste to the entire situation is that Kelechi was met with no response or action from the people she had privately reached out to in the tech space about this issue at the point of its occurrence.
Thankfully, a number of top tech figures including Opeyemi Awoyemi (Co-Founder of Jobberman) and Odunayo Eweniyi (Co-founder of Piggyvest) stood up to Kendall, asking for an explanation after Kelechi shared her experience with the world. This led to Kendall’s stepping down as Tizeti CEO while the company investigated the matter.
While the investigation absolved Kendall of any wrongdoing, a number of tech companies would also review and restate their stance against sexual harassment, a development which Kelechi considers a win in itself.
Thrive Agric vs its investors
Thrive Agric’s scandal is one of broken promises.
The company started out the year on a high note with plans to expand from their 25,000 funded farmers to 250,000 farmers by the end of the year. However, the novel COVID-19 turned not just their plans upside down, but also their business. They ran into a lot of issues with low market demand for the farm products while the expenses of feeds continued to rise due to the inability to sell the farm products even after their maturity period.
With investment maturity period long over and payment of returns long overdue, investors took to Twitter and other social media platforms to call out the agro-tech investment company with breach of contract claims. There were also claims that the company was paying people who invested through Piggyvest, as well as the rising fear of Thrive Agric being just another Ponzi scheme that was robbing Peter to pay Paul.
But a Thrive Agric spokesperson noted that they had truly not performed well with how they handled the communication with their investors, mentioning that this was because they weren’t sure of how to deal with this challenge which was quite new to them. The spokesperson also assured that investors will get the full returns by March 2021.
Agrikore and funds misappropriation
In September, the CEO of Cellulant Nigeria Limited, Bolaji Akinboro resigned from all his managerial positions at the company. This was following the retrenchment of 14 employees of Agrikore due to an investigation that revealed that they had inappropriately received funds from Agrikore’s wallets.
Agrikore is an offshoot of Cellulant that is primarily a blockchain-based digital marketplace meant to connect agriculture stakeholders including governments, farmers, merchants and financial institutions. The saga began when Cellulant (the parent company) realised that Agrikore had grown rapidly over the last two years without any consistent growth in its fiscal position.
This led to the engagement of an independent ‘Big 4’ accounting firm as well as a well-respected Nigerian law firm to carry out the necessary investigation. With Agrikore’s operations suspended during the investigation, it was discovered the employees had granted themselves unfettered access to company funds. They were promptly fired while CEO, Akinboro was relieved of his position.
Wejapa’s Favor Ori vs Nigerian developers
August opened up another can of worms when developers accused Favour Ori on the streets of Twitter of cheating them in the course of doing business together. Technext reported that Silas Adedoyin, a Nigerian software engineer who won the WeJapa web app hackathon, accused the tech CEO of not delivering an international job that was part of his reward.
Ori is the CEO of Wejapa, a tech job outsourcing company that helps developers get jobs from Europe, Africa and North America. In addition to Silas Adedoyin, some other victims including Oladiran Segun and Nwanze Franklin faulted Favor’s dealings with them. Some of what Ori was accused of include extortion, highhandedness, and fraud.
The Wejapa board asked the CEO to step down while an independent investigation was conducted into the allegations by a legal firm named Calmhill Partners. The firm found Ori guilty of highhandedness and extortion and Wejapa apologised to developers for its lapse and failure to provide a fair working environment for its developers
Ori has since been demoted to Chief Technical Officer while his co-founder, Hauwa Aguillard, now functions as the Chief Executive Officer.
HealthPlus vs Alta Semper: An equity deal gone south
The ember months got interesting as the HealthPlus equity battle unfolded. The pharmaceutical company had, in 2018, partnered with Alta Semper Capital LLC UK who injected $18 million to fuel its expansion. To facilitate this, HealthPlus’s founder, Bukky George moved 95% ownership of HealthPlus into a new entity known as HealthPlus Africa Holdings Limited and retained the remaining 5% equity to her name.
In essence, George owns 46.2% of the new entity while Alta Semper owns 53.8% through its investment vehicle, Idi Holdings.
What caused the scuffle?
According to reports, after injecting $10 million into HealthPlus, Alta Semper was unable to come up with the remaining $8 million. In May, the pharmaceutical company, through Bukky George “instituted legal action at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court [in suit No: FHC/L/CS/609/2020] seeking relief aimed at stopping Alta Semper from running and managing the company.”
Alta Semper attempted to take over the control of the company’s offices in Lagos but has been resisted twice. The company also announced that Bukky George had been removed as the CEO of the company and Chidi Okoro appointed as Chief Transformation Officer.
HealthPlus released its own announcement to refute Alta Semper’s claim and insisted that George remains the company’s CEO. In November, Okoro was reported to have forced his way into HealthPlus’ head office along with some police officers and IT experts. The attempt to hack into the company’s servers proved futile after the staff of the IT department refused to hand over necessary passwords.
The attempted hostile takeover is against a court ruling which mandates that representatives from Alta Semper and HealthPlus maintain the status quo and continue working together until a judgement is pronounced.
If you’d like to get featured on our Entrepreneur Spotlight, click here to share your startup story with us.
Get latest Technology news, reviews, business-related content with a deliberate emphasis on the African narrative and insightful analysis in Nigeria – straight to your inbox.