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Former Skye Bank chair, Ayeni drags business partner, Okunbo, to EFCC, alleges stealing, diversion of millions of dollars

EFCC detains former chairman of defunct Skye Bank Ayeni

Mr Tayo Ayeni, a former chairman of the defunct Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank), has accused his business partner, Captain Hosa Okunbo, of mismanagement, stealing and diversion of millions of funds belonging to their company, Ocean Marine Security (OMS) Limited.

Ayeni made the allegation in a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through his lawyer, Mr Femi Fálànà (SAN).

He also accused Okunbo in the petition of scheming him out of the company.

Ayeni’s lawyer, Falana said in the petition that sometime in 2007, that his client, Okunbo, Joe Aikhomu, represented by his father, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, and Gareth Dooley formed a company named Ocean Marine Security Limited, which later became Ocean Marine Solutions Limited.

He said while Okunbo holds 46 percent shares in the company, Ayeni holds 35, Dooley 14 and Aikhomu five percent.

Falana added that his client and Okunbo acquired Aikhomu’s shares after his demise, adding that Aikhomu, who was the founding chairman, was also replaced by Okunbo as chairman after his death.

According to Ayeni the company later incorporated four other subsidiaries and invested in Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company as well as Yola Electricity Distribution Company.

He said trouble began when in 2016 the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) took over Skye Bank Plc, now Polaris Bank Limited. The development he said, saw the new management of the bank drag the former management of the bank under Ayeni to the Federal High Court and the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja, via a petition to the EFCC.

“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,” Falana said.

He said in order to shield the company from the effect of his client’s prosecution that Okunbo persuaded him to step aside from the company and its subsidiaries and handover to him to enable him protect income sources of the company.

After Ayeni allegedly agreed to the suggestion because he trusted Okunbo, “the latter turned around and said Ayeni’s shares had been sold to him”, Falana said.

He said his client did not at any time discuss the actual sale of his interest in the company or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates with Okunbo.

The petitioner said he had not been receiving emails and briefings from the company in respect of the businesses and finances and that his monthly allowances of $350,000 and $25,000 for his wife, which he was receiving stopped coming since September 2020 because of irreconcilable differences bordering on financial impropriety by Okunbo.

“When our client confronted Okunbo he had no defence whatsoever but claimed that he had bought our client out of the company and he cannot complain.”

Ayeni said that Okunbo introduced one Mr Nedd Nwoko to the company with Nwoko claiming he had contract with the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in respect of the Paris Club refund and that his fee was 20 per cent.

He added that after Nwoko asked the company to fund the transaction process for him, that Okunbo funded him at various times to the tune of $6 million.

“Captain Okunbo claimed that only $4.5 million was paid which was less than the money given to Ned Nwoko because the Nigeria Governors’ Forum reduced his payment and he could not afford the commitment.

“Captain Okunbo suggested to our client to accept the money to reduce the pressure from AMCON, which he obliged, as this was the practice in the company – any particular director in need is sometimes advanced sums of money ahead of others,” the petition said.

Among other things, the infraction Ayeni is accusing Okunbo of include moving the company’s accounts from Polaris Bank to Stanbic IBTC and abandoning the loan repayment commitment by the company to the consortium of banks that funded the acquisition of Yola and Ibadan Discos.

“The loan as at today is about $100 million and no single repayment of interest and principal has been made into the account for over one year and a half.

“Captain Okunbo was a director of the Board of IBEDC until a few months ago when he resigned and replaced himself with his younger brother, Mr. Kingsley Okunbo, but he refused to pay the money meant for the acquisition of the company but he rather has been stealing it and diverting same to his personal use and to fund his political activities in just concluded Edo State governorship election,” he said.

He is equally accusing Okunbo of “diversion of the loan of N500m to Gen. Boro the then coordinator of the Niger Delta Amnesty programme. Our client was informed that the money was subsequently repaid to the company through Captain Okunbo and two vehicles were recovered by him. He took possession of it and never paid back to the company.

“Captain Okunbo borrowed $2 million from the company and took it to Liberia to fund the current Liberian president’s election. He has refused to pay back to the company.

“Unauthorised sale of the company’s Challenger Aircraft for the sum of $5.5 million and diversion of the money to his personal farm in Benin, which he has refused to pay back to the company.

“Captain Okunbo borrowed $1 million from the company account which he refused to pay back to the company.

READ ALSO: EFCC arraigns Ex-Skye Bank chair, Ayeni, others for alleged fraud

“The company through Captain Okunbo made available the sum of $5 million to Dr John Abebe for a five per cent share in an oil block with Star Oil. He has refused to provide details of the document of the investment.

“Captain Okunbo has illegally taken unauthorised amounts of money from the company account to fund the just concluded Edo State election without our client’s consent. From preliminary information our client has been informed that he spent about $18 million in this process, as a result of which our client requested a forensic audit of the accounts of the company and the subsidiaries, which Capt. Okunbo had taken full control of.”

Meanwhile, OMS management in a statement on Saturday, denied Ayeni’s allegations and said that he was no longer a part of either OMS or its associated companies because he resigned since 2018 after selling all his shares.

“The attention of the Board of Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMS) has been drawn to several petitions written to various Government Agencies and widely circulated online, written, authored and orchestrated by Dr. Olatunde John Ayeni, a former Director and shareholder of OMS,” the statement partly read.

Also, Nwoko has reacted to his name being mentioned to the petition.

In a letter to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, Nwoko said that at no point in time “have I had any dealings with Ayeni or Ocean Marine Solutions in whatever capacity.”

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