Top Nigerians, including the Group Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Oscar Onyema, and the business mogul who is also one of the richest men in Africa, Aliko Dangote, Nigerian Stock Exchange and World Bank Group were dragged before a United States court in 2015 over allegation of property theft, induced manipulation and rape.
According to court papers seen by Freelanews, a businessman and plaintiff, Kevin Ajenifuja, asserted that the defendants colluded by inducing his then wife in an “elaborate scheme” to steal trade secrets that he had developed.
This story of the case which was eventually dismissed in 2020 began in March 2000, when Ajenifuja was introduced to Onyema.
In March 2003, Ajenifuja incorporated his equity investment company and began working from home full-time “managing money for [a] few friends.”
Onyema and two other individuals—all “currently employed” by the Nigerian Stock Exchange—invested with Ajenifuja in May 2003, but liquidated their investment accounts in August 2004.
In June 2004, after ten years of researching financial instrument offerings, Ajenifuja claimed he finally developed a technique and process for using sector exchange-traded funds for Africa of which he was “the rightful owner”.
Ajenifuja eventually generated a business plan based on the technique and process he had developed, and began reaching out to venture capital firms for financing.
On February 21, 2012, during a dinner meeting, Onyema suggested that Ajenifuja should develop some financial instruments for trading on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the paper Freelanews saw read.
Ajenifuja did not respond to this suggestion but Ajenifuja alleged that Onyema and the other defendants had already begun taking steps to steal the technique and process that Ajenifuja had created for these financial instruments.
This plan appeared to have begun in earnest in 2010, when Ajenifuja alleged that the defendants introduced Ajenifuja’s then-wife to opioids at a German-speaking Catholic Mission in Washington.
They then began blackmailing her and eventually “trained and instructed” her on how “to gradually disrupt Ajenifuja’s life, career, and children.”
These efforts all led up to August 4, 2014, when she received text messages from a cellphone issued by the World Bank Group and was instructed to deliver Ajenifuja’s trade secrets to someone at the Columbia Heights Community Center in Washington, D.C.
She then allegedly stole Ajenifuja’s trade secrets from his home office, drove back to the Columbia Heights Community Center, and delivered them to someone at the center.
A few months later, Ajenifuja began to suspect something was amiss.
On December 13, 2014, Ajenifuja received a call from his sister in Lagos, who told him to talk to his cousin in Lagos about “funding assistance for his business plan.”
Ajenifuja claimed though he was unsure how his sister found out about the business plan, he spoke with his cousin on December 19, 2014.
During the call, his cousin expressed interest in Ajenifuja’s business plan and asked Ajenifuja to send him a summary of it, but Ajenifuja said he got suspicious and believed this was an attempt to create a false narrative that his trade secrets were stolen from his family in Lagos, Nigeria.
The next day, on December 20, 2014, Ajenifuja started looking around the house for missing copies of the technique and implementation process for his sector exchange-traded funds for Africa and grew even more suspicious of what was afoot.
It wasn’t until a few months later, on March 23, 2015, when the Nigerian Stock Exchange “signed a strategic agreement” with Morgan Stanley Capital International to “develop and commercialize a co-branded family of indexes for the Nigerian equity markets” that his fear was confirmed.
Ajenifuja emailed the head of the Nigerian Stock Exchange’s legal department on April 13, 2015, and met with an attorney on April 17, 2015, to discuss, among other things, his missing trade secrets.
Although Ajenifuja made a variety of factual allegations regarding a wide array of topics and individuals far beyond the named defendants, the thrust of his amended complaint was that the defendants “directly and indirectly, including through other intermediaries, orchestrated an elaborate scheme to blackmail” Ajenifuja’s then-wife, and “coerced her to steal his trade secrets from their Washington, D.C. home.
Nevertheless, the case was closed by United States District Court District of Columbia when the defendants’ motions to dismiss the claims were granted in 2020, among other things, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.