former chairperson of the board of directors of the defunct Skye Bank Plc, Tunde Ayeni, has petition (EFCC) over an alleged forceful takeover of a company by his partner, Hosa Okunbo.
In a petition by Femi Falana, counsel to Mr Ayeni, the petitioner asked the EFCC to investigate alleged gross mismanagement and criminal diversion of company funds by Mr Okunbo.
In the petition, dated December 7, Mr Ayeni alleged that Mr Okunbo, his partner at Ocean Marine Solutions (OMS) Limited since 2003, allegedly schemed him out of the control of the company.
The petitioner said he and Mr Okunbo invested in the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), but his partner moved the company’s account to another bank and abandoned repayment of a $100 million loan used for the acquisition of the firm.
Mr Ayeni said he discovered “a lot of stealing and diversion as well as gross mismanagement of large sums of money belonging to the company,” urging the anti-graft commission to step in.
“Subsequently,” the petition reads in part, “Capt. Hosa Okunbo told our client that all accounts of the businesses that he was involved in for which he was a signatory, was being rumoured to be closed because of the trial our client was facing, and it was important for him to step aside from the Ocean Marine and its subsidiaries structure and hand over to him, so that he could protect the income sources as that was the only source of income with which to fund the faithful repayment of the gross liabilities, which were well over $150 million owed to a consortium of banks led by Polaris Bank over the acquisition of the IBEDC and the YEDC DisCos as at the time.
“Our client agreed to the advice and did not doubt Capt. Hosa Okunbo’s sincerity and intention to act in good faith, based on the trust our client had in him as they had both been working and partnering together since July 2003.
“At no point was an actual sale of his interest in Ocean Marine Solutions Ltd or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates ever discussed, but Capt. Hosa Okunbo is trying to use the gentlemen’s arrangement to forcefully take over his holdings of the Company whose monthly income is about $9 million.”
Mr Ayeni claimed that, however, since the suggestion was effected, their client does not receive emails and briefings from the group in respect of the businesses and finances any longer, but was getting the monthly allowance they had agreed to be paying themselves.
“Even for this monthly payment, he asked our client to provide an account in which he was not a Director or signatory. He did so and his monthly allowances were regularly being paid until September 2020 when the payment completely stopped due to apparent irreconcilable differences bordering on financial impropriety of Capt. Hosa Okunbo,” he alleged.
“Our client has since discovered a lot of stealing and diversion, as well as gross mismanagement of large sums of money belonging to the Company. When our client confronted Capt Hosa Okunbo, he had no defence whatsoever but claimed that he had bought our client out of the Company and that he cannot complain.
“This is a company where Capt Hosa Okunbo owns 46%, our client 35%, Garth Dooley 14% and Admiral Joe Aikhomu 5%.”
In 2016, the CBN took over Skye Bank Plc, now Polaris Bank Limited. In the wake of the take-over, the new management wrote a petition against the Ayeni-led management and charges were filed against him at both at the Federal High Court and the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja.
Consequently, Mr Falana wrote in the petition, “Our client became very distracted from the day to day operations of the company because of an almost daily requirement of his presence at either the EFCC, the offices of his lawyers and the courts.
“During this period, the company had a payment challenge from the CBN as it also works for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiary NPDC as a result of which some of the payments are denominated in United States Dollars and as such the payments come through the CBN.”
Mr Ayeni also accused his partner of refusing to pay back $2 million he took from the company to fund the current Liberian president’s election, adding that he and his partner gave about $6 million to Ned Nwoko, a politician, to secure a business deal.
OMS, Nwoko react
However, in a swift reaction, OMS urged the public to disregard Mr Ayeni’s allegations.
According to Thisday newspaper, the company alleged “…that Dr. Olatunde John Ayeni is no longer a Director of OMS and any of its Associated Companies having resigned from OMS since August 2018,” and that he is “no longer a shareholder of OMS and its Associated Companies having sold and transferred all his shares and interests to Wells Property Development Company Limited for valuable consideration since 2018.”
The company also stated “unequivocally that its accounts are in good and correct order and its funds are intact and not missing, misappropriated or otherwise mismanaged.” It added that the company’s board has passed a vote of confidence on Mr Okunbo and that Mr Ayeni is “…a meddlesome interloper who is seeking to blackmail Capt. (Dr.) Idahosa Wells Okunbo at this time of his ill-health for financial benefit.”
“Dr. Olatunde John Ayeni has no interest whatsoever in OMS and its affairs and is hereby advised to steer clear from OMS and its Associated Companies,” the statement concluded.
Also in his reaction, Mr Nwoko said he never had any dealing with Mr Ayeni or the company.
“I wish to state that at no point in time have I had any dealings with Ayeni or Ocean Marine Solutions in whatever capacity as it relates to the above transaction,” he said in a response.
“I have never received any sum from Ayeni which he purported in his petition and he has never played any role whatsoever as it relates to this transaction.
“All transactions on the subject matter were done directly with Capt. (Dr.) Idahosa Wells Okunbo in his personal capacity to the exclusion of any other party including Ocean Marine Solutions Limited. To suggest otherwise as contained in the said petition is merely a malicious statement devoid of truth.”