OMS: Why is Tunde Ayeni after Captain Idahosa Okunbo?

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The recent and unfolding battle in Ocean Marine Security (OMS) Limited has left many tongues wagging and wondering how two jolly bosom friends and business partners, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo and Tunde Ayeni, a former Chairman of Skye Bank, now Polaris Bank became archenemies.

The tension between the former friends was said to have started when Ayeni who sold his shares in OMS in 2018 and resigned his appointment as director and shareholder of the company. But Ayeni claims that he remains a shareholder in the company.

The ice of friendship was finally broke when Ayeni dragged Okunbo, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegations of mismanagement, stealing and diversion of funds from OMS Limited.

Ayeni said he had since discovered “a lot of stealing and diversion as well as gross mismanagement of large sums of money belonging to the company.”

In the petition written by his counsel, Femi Fálànà (SAN), Ayeni alleged that Okunbo took over control of the company while he (Ayeni) was distracted by a court trial.

Ayeni who acknowledged Okubo as being his business partner since 2003, said “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.

But it was further gathered that Ayeni actually sold off his shares and cease to be a director of OMS. It was also learnt that Ayeni approached Okunbo – who had invited him on board of OMS – to sell his 35 per cent stake in the company, following his exit from Skye Bank.

According to the documents sighted, in August 2018, Ayeni, using his company, Prime Union Investment Limited, agreed to sell his shares including the 175, 000, 000 ordinary shares in GYRO (and the 50, 000, 000 shares held by Mrs Ayeni) to Wells Property Development Company Limited for the total sum of N2bn (Two billion naira).

The sale was confirmed by a special resolution of the board of Prime Union Investment Limited, signed by Ayeni and his wife, Biola in same month.

The document further revealed that Okunbo, following the sale agreement, authorized the transfer of N1 billion to Ayeni’s Olutoyl Estate Development and Services Ltd’s Sterling Bank account, on November 26, 2018.

While it was mutually agreed that the balance will be paid on monthly instalment basis, the OMS Board, it was learnt, notified the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the Office of the Vice President about Ayeni’s resignation of his membership of the board of the OMS and its affiliate companies.

In January 2019, the CBN acknowledged the transaction, when it stated, “Please, be informed that the resignation of Dr. Ayeni from the board of your company does not in any way affect his liability, or that of Ocean Marine Solutions Limited or any of its subsidiaries/group members, to Skye Bank Plc (now Polaris Bank Limited) and, indeed, any other bank in Nigeria.”

On March 1, the office of the Vice President, in an acknowledgement letter titled ‘Re: Notification of Resignation and Share Divestment of Dr. Olatunde John Ayeni’, applauded Capt. Okunbo’s renewed commitment to service in the agricultural, aviation and hospitality sectors of the economy.

The letter signed by the deputy chief of staff to the President, Ade Ipaye added, “Your Company’s disclaimer as regards the said Dr. Ayeni’s activities as chairman of Skye Bank has been duly noted and brought to the attention of His Excellency, the Vice President.”

Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a letter to the chairman and Board of Directors of OMS on June 25, 2019, confirmed with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) that Ayeni had sold his entire shares and resigned as director and shareholders of the company.

The letter signed by EFCC’s director of Operations, Mohammed Umar Abba, was tilted: “Re: Investigation Activities”.

It read in part: “We refer to your letters dated 20th December 2018, 15th April 2019, 22nd May, 2019 and NNPC letter dated 28th December 2018 on the above subject.

“We wish to state that in June 2017, a petition regarding infractions by the previous Board and Management of Skye Bank was forwarded from the Office of the Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“In the course of investigation, Dr. Tunde Ayeni was invited and he volunteered a statement confirming the withdrawal of 29.5 billion naira cash from the Skye Bank. He, however, promised to refund the said funds to the bank and further claimed to have some interest in Ocean Marine and its subsidiary companies.

“Based on the above, investigation was extended to the Corporate Affairs Commission where it was discovered that Dr. Tunde Ayeni had on the 8th August, 2018 actually sold his 35 million ordinary shares in Ocean Marine Solutions Limited and 37.2 million ordinary shares in PPP Fluid Mechanics Limited to Wells Property Development Company Limited, a subsidiary of Ocean Marine Solutions Ltd.”

The EFCC had said that its investigation so far did not indict the chairman of OMS and its subsidiary companies, Capt. Okunbo.

Dispelling Ayeni’s claim, the management of OMS stated that he ceased being a part of either OMS or its associated companies since 2018 when he resigned after selling all his shares.

The OMS management also stated that Ayeni signed validly-executed company resolutions and other documents, transferring his shares in OMS and its other associated companies to Wells Property Limited.

The management said, “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.

“Dr Olatunde John Ayeni is no longer a director of OMS and any of its associated companies having resigned from OMS since August 2018,” the signees posited.

Stressing that he sold and transferred all his shares and interests to Wells Property Development Company Limited for valuable consideration since 2018, the management noted that when Ayeni became aware in September 2020 that Captain Okunbo had health issues and was undergoing treatment in London, he “has since then started making false claims that he is still a part of OMS.”

But there was more. Ayeni had also alleged in his petition that businessman and politician, Prince Ned Nwoko received the sum of $6,000,000 (Six Million Dollars) from him and Captain Idahosa Okunbo, in a business deal with Ocean Marine Solutions (OMS) Limited, over which he allegedly promised to pay the company the sum of $30,000,000 (Thirty Million Dollars).

He alleged that Nwoko had approached OMS Limited, requesting it to fund the process for the Paris Club refunds to the Local Governments of Nigeria, and also that he (Nwoko) had charged 20 per cent of the refund as his fee, and that upon success, he would pay OMS the sum of $30,000,000 as return for the funding.

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

Describing Ayeni’s assertion as “a malicious and devoid of truth”, Nwoko said he “never received any sum from Ayeni which he purported in his petition and 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.”