Guilty As Charged: How Tunde Ayeni Admitted To The EFCC That He Stole Skye Bank

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Guilty as Charged: How Tunde Ayeni Admitted to the EFCC that he Stole Skye Bank’s N29bn The noose has further tightened on the neck of Tunde Ayeni, the ousted chairman of Skye Bank Plc. From the confines of his palatial homes, he must now be sighting in the distance, the gates of the Nigerian Correctional Service (or, well, prisons). Notwithstanding his initial braggadocio and 'not guilty' plea to allegations of embezzlement that caused the bank's distress, the disgraced businessman has confessed that, indeed, he misappropriated billions of naira of depositors’ funds. He is currently locked in a discussion to settle out of court. According to Ahmed Raji (SAN) and O. Akonni, who appeared on behalf of Ayeni and the former managing director of the bank, Timothy Oguntayo, the defence counsel had to apply for an adjournment to avail their clients the opportunity to conclude the out-of-court settlement with the EFCC and the CBN. The lawyers said, “The settlement has reached a very advanced state. The first defendant (Ayeni) has come out with a roll-on plan to inject the sum of $300million into his business, and as such, the out-of-court settlement will be sorted out because it is a huge amount of money.” Who refunds such money if they did not have a hand in its disappearance? Sources at the EFCC said that after his initial grandstanding, Ayeni sang like a bird to investigators and went on a lying spree against prominent dead Nigerians including the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. The EFCC source said, “He lied that he gave N29billion to Alamieyeseigha as a bribe but we found out that it was part of the money that he diverted to buy NITEL and MTEL which he changed its name to NTEL.” Around the time the news of Skye Bank’s distress broke, and the way Ayeni's infamous role, the Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, had vowed that the full wrath of the law would be brought to bear on all those culpable in its unfortunate collapse, saying, “We have to show some examples. We cannot just be bailing out banks and leaving perpetrators of the failure of these banks to just go scot-free.” Perhaps it was this realisation that he had nowhere to hide that made Ayeni confess the role he played in the fall of Skye Bank. A lawyer and businessman, Ayeni served as chairman of Skye Bank between 2011 and 2016 but was accused of mismanaging the funds of the bank. He and top directors of the bank resigned abruptly sensing that the Central Bank of Nigeria was closing in on them but that did not save them from being arrested by the EFCC as Ayeni spent several weeks in detention. To save depositors’ funds, the CBN took a regulatory action on the bank by withdrawing its license and establishing a bridge bank, Polaris Bank. In March 2019, the EFCC arraigned Ayeni, along with Oguntayo, before Justice Valentine Ashi of a Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court, Apo, on a four-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and for conspiring at different times to fraudulently divert depositors’ funds domiciled at Skye Bank Plc to personal use. They were later arraigned on a 10-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N25,415,080,000 (Twenty-five Billion, Four Hundred and Fifteen Million, Eighty Thousand Naira) alongside two companies, Control Dredging Company Ltd and Royaltex Paramount Ventures Ltd. Ayeni’s mismanagement of the bank is a classic case of putting a square peg in a round hole. For a hustling lawyer with no management experience, stakeholders in the financial industry had raised the alarm over the handing over of Skye Bank to Ayeni but he had his way with the CBN. Those who feared he would ruin the bank have now been vindicated. This has, thus, made him a pariah in the banking industry as no bank is ready to have him on their board; not with his truckload of corruption cases. No investor is also ready to do business with a man with such horrid pedigree.

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