In a bid to address a substantial debt of ₦2 billion, Nigerian digital financial services company Patricia has recently unveiled a controversial strategy that allows customers to convert their account balances into company shares. While this move has garnered mixed reactions from customers, a cloud of uncertainty looms over potential partnerships with a cryptocurrency exchange. At the heart of the matter, however, is the growing frustration among Patricia users who have been unable to withdraw their funds for over six months.
The ongoing issue has left Patricia’s customers deeply agitated. One customer, who preferred to remain anonymous, expressed their discontent, stating, “They said they are turning my money into shares, and I have no choice right now.” This sentiment echoes the sentiments of many Patricia users who find themselves in a similar predicament.
An audio recording obtained by Techpoint Africa, a prominent digital media company, reveals a Patricia representative explaining the situation to a concerned customer. The representative affirmed that Patricia had found investors, but converting customer balances into shares appeared to be the only viable option at this point. The representative also assured customers that they would ultimately regain access to their funds even after the conversion to shares.
The situation took a contentious turn two months ago when Patricia unexpectedly replaced customers’ assets, originally held in Naira or Bitcoin, with its newly launched native token, Patricia Token (PTK), without obtaining customer consent. This move has sparked concerns among experts, with Bolu Abiodun, a Blockchain journalist, highlighting its apparent non-compliance with Securities Exchange Commission guidelines, which stipulate that entities launching tokens for Nigerian customers must submit a roadmap to the SEC.
Patricia’s financial woes can be traced back to a significant cyber hack in 2022, which resulted in losses totaling approximately $2 million. Subsequently, Patricia implemented a freeze on customer withdrawals. During a town hall meeting held last month, Patricia’s founder and CEO, Hanu Fejiro, announced plans to initiate customer repayments. Nevertheless, the specifics of how this repayment would occur remained frustratingly unclear to many customers.
Frustration mounted as customers received multiple updates from Patricia, but the timeline for when they could access their funds remained uncertain. For countless users, their funds have remained trapped for an extended period. One particularly affected customer, Nelson, who had ₦4 million ($5,224) stuck in the platform, has been unable to withdraw his funds for nearly seven months.
The introduction of the native token, PTK, in August was meant to serve as a means of repaying customer funds. However, this decision sparked skepticism among Patricia’s user base. Patricia clarified that the tokens essentially functioned as debt tokens (IOUs) designed to acknowledge the company’s debts to its customers. Despite this clarification, customers have reported that their PTK balances have remained at zero.
The situation surrounding Patricia’s debt resolution strategy remains fluid and contentious, with customers demanding greater transparency and clarity about when they will regain access to their funds. Patricia’s ability to navigate these challenges and rebuild customer trust will be closely watched in the coming months.