How FG Sacked Cross River SUBEB Chairman, Stephen Odey In 2006 For Forgery, N4.7m Fraud

In Breaking News, National News, Politics

By CrossRiverWatch Admin

“I am directed to convey your dismissal from the services of the Council with immediate effect,” was the first line of the letter dated July 31, 2006, signed by Hamisu Gambo for the then Executive Chairman of the Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC), Ahmed Tijjani Ramalan, and addressed to Mr. Stephen Adi Odey.

Mr. Odey (now a PhD holder) currently serves as the Chairman, Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board (CRSUBEB). He has been in that position for more than four years.

“This is sequel to your indictment by a disciplinary committee involving forgery of official documents, false representation and fraudulent conduct,” reads the second line in the dismissal letter with reference number JOMALIC/HQ/AD/D12.

This was in line with Public Service Rule 04406 the letter said. This meant Odey was not entitled “to any form of severance pay in lieu of notice.”

But, how Mr. Odey did not wind up in prison despite the indictment remains a mystery to many. Documents sighted by CrossRiverWatch over the course of findings, show the process leading to his dismissal lasted about five weeks.

Mr. Odey And JOMALIC

Mr. Odey worked with JOMALIC for a few years and following a petition against him by the management of Macwills Company Limited, the Council wrote him on June 23, 2006 asking him for his side of the story.

He was serving in the Calabar office of the Council as at the time and some say he was the only one dismissed when Mr. Ramalan was Executive Chairman. Mr. Ramalan was the pioneer Executive Chairman of the Council.

The Forgery

Chief Williams Essien of Macwills Company Limited is said to have accused Mr. Odey of defrauding him of Four million, seven hundred and sixty thousand Naira, (NGN4,760,000).

According to Essien, Mr. Odey forged a document approving him as a “dock labour employer” with reference number JOMALIC/HQ/DLS/DA/L4.

The Query

And, the Council wrote him on June 23, 2006 demanding for explanations. Mr. Odey denied the allegations and a second letter dated June 28, 2006 said further investigations revealed that “payments were made into First Inland Bank Account No. 310100006629 purported to belong to you, in respect of the above transaction.”

24 hours later on June 29, 2006, Mr. Odey in his reply to the query, reiterated that; “I have never delivered any letter purporting to register Macwills & Co. Ltd as a Dock Labour Employer.”

According to Mr. Odey, Mr. Essien had approached him to register his company as a manning agent which his son could not complete. Upon going through his company’s document, Odey said that he advised Essien to “increase his company’s share capital from NGN2 million to the required minimum of NGN10 million, which he agreed to do so.”

Mr. Odey said that Mr. Essien asked him to assist with a lawyer who would do that, which he agreed and got an unnamed Abuja based lawyer to do so.

He claimed that following pleas from Mr. Essien, who said he would make payments in installments, “Chief Essien opted to source the money through me for onward remission to the lawyer. This explains why the payments were made into my First Inland Bank Account. Those payments were to cater for, fees for registration of increase in share capital at the Corporate Affairs Commisson, stamp Duties, solicitor’s fees/expenses to and from the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja and other incidental expenses to secure the registration of Macwills & Co. Ltd as Seafarers Employer/Manning Agent.”

Mr. Odey who said Chief Essien had approach him at the time of the query to assist in the renewal of his registration as a manning agent due to his “previous assistance to him,” insisted that, “at no time was the issue of registration of Macwills & Co. Ltd as a Dock Labour Employer ever discussed between Chief Essien and me.”

Furthermore, he explained that; “The near absence of maritime operators within my area of jurisdiction was the primary consideration that made me assist those who want to be involved in the sector from this zone.”

The Suspension And Sack

After reviewing the facts, the Director, Administration and Finance wrote Mr. Odey on July 3, 2006 conveying his suspension.

“Investigations reveal that you are a party to the issuance of fake allocation letter for Tally Clerks and Security to Macwills & Co. Ltd,” the suspension letter signed by Hamisu Gambo read.

It continued: “Consequently, I am directed to convey Management’s decision to suspend your appointment indefinitely without pay for falsification of official documents pending the report of a disciplinary committee appointed by the Executive Chairman.”

He was then directed to appear before the disciplinary committee on Wednesday, July 5, 2006 and to handover his “schedule and all council’s property in your possession to the Port Officer, Calabar.”

And, 26 days after appearing before the disciplinary committee, Mr. Odey’s dismissal from office was signed and dispatched.

“Consequently, you will not be entitled to any form of severance pay in lieu of notice,” the sack letter said and directed him to return all JOMALIC’s properties to the Acting Director, Eastern Zone through the Port Officer, Calabar.

No Prosecution?

Six days before his dismissal letter was signed, the then Executive Chairman, Tijjani Ramalan wrote the Inspector General of Police on July 25, 2006 requesting for investigation.

“Mr. Stephen Odey was a staff of this organization and he was serving in the Council’s Calabar office, he was involved in a case of gross misconduct for defrauding one Chief Williams Essien of Macwills Limited (a company in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom state) of the sum totaling Four Million, Seven Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira (N4,760,000),” the letter read.

It continued; “The evidence against Mr. Odey was overwhelming such that the Council received Ministerial directives to dismiss him from service. Accordingly, Council wish to request for further Police Investigation and possible prosecution on this case.”

Now, Mr. Odey was said to have been invited and after been detained for several days, was helped out by a lawyer who knew him and had contacts.

The lawyer is said to have convinced the Police to charge him to the magistrate court which lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter where he took a plea bargain and agreed to pay off Chief Essien.

Sources familiar with the matter said, he never paid up to NGN1 million to Chief Essien who later walked away from the matter describing it as a bad investment.

Life Continues

Mr. Odey is said to have left after that and got more involved in politics. He will then grow a deeper bond with Benedict Ayade who layer became the Senator representing Cross River north between 2011 and 2015 when he was elected Governor.

Mr. Ayade appointed him as aide while in the National Assembly and upon assumption of office as Governor, appointed him as Chairman, CRSUBEB.

He is said to be a powerful aide and trusted ally of the Governor which informed speculations that his bid to replace the late Senator Rose Oko in the Senate was to mark time for Mr. Ayade who intends to run for the Senate position in 2023.

What Is JOMALIC About?

The now defunct JOMALIC was a tripartite organization consisting of workers’ representatives, employers and the government in line with the recommendation of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It served as a platform for industrial labour relations and conflict resolution in the maritime industry.

President Olusegun Obasanjo had created it in 1999 while attempting to reform dock labour, a strong force that controlled the shipping sector for over a decade through the dreaded Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN).

To break MWUN stronghold, President Obasanjo set up the Joint Docklabour Industrial Council (JODLIC) in 2000 under the now repealed Nigerian Dock Labour Decree 37 of 1999 after the dissolution of the National Dock Labour Board in 1999 to achieve the reform objectives.

JODLIC subsequently transformed into JOMALIC following the enactment of the Nigerian Maritime Labour Act of 2003.

JOMALIC was then merged with the Nigerian Maritime Authority (NMA) to form the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in August 2006, a month after Mr. Odey’s sack. Mr. Ramalan became the pioneer Director General too.

See exclusive documents below.

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