Corruption scandal rocks Nahco •EFCC battles Board, Management over cover-up attempt

Posted by News Express | 21 September 2017 | 2,203 times

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All is not well with erstwhile cash cow, the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (Nahco) Plc. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is on collision course with the Board and Management of the company over the ongoing investigation of fraud and money laundering involving the former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the company, Alhaji Suleiman Yahyah. The Commission is miffed that the Management of the company, allegedly at the instigation of the former chairman, through the Board, is victimising, frustrating out and determining the employment of all staff who were questioned and statements elicited from them, by the anti-graft body last year, when EFCC raided and obtained series of documents from Nahco.

In a letter sent to the company dated 14th August, 2017 titled, “Investigation activities, Re: Ongoing Investigation of Fraud and Money Laundering”, signed by Garba Dugum, the Head of Operations, Lagos, the Commission frowned at the development thus: “Information has it that some of your Management staff who were interrogated and released on bail to your Legal Officer in the ongoing investigation are being victimised and relieved of their job without any recourse to the Commission.”

The letter went further to request the company to “confirm all affected management staff whom (sic) you took on bail are still in your services and are not being forced to leave so as to jeopardise the outcome our investigation”. EFCC warned that in event there was any reason for any of the staff to leave the employ of the company, the Commission should be contacted before such decision was taken to enable it arrange an “alternative condition pending the outcome of our investigation’.”

Recently the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr Norbert Bielderman, was frustrated by the Board and made to throw in the towel ahead of the expiration of his contract. Mr Bielderman left Nigeria on August 13, 2017 after being sent on terminal leave.

The same day he left the shores of the country, two senior managers, the Chief Operating Officer, Hassan Yahaya, and Head, Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Relations, Uche Maduemesi, a lawyer, were summoned and told by the Acting Managing Director of the company, Mrs Folashade Ode, and Head, Corporate Services, Mr Bashir Gulma, that there was an instruction from the Board that they should turn in their resignation letters. The two managers, it was gathered, did not have any disciplinary issue against them in the company prior to the sudden directive by the Board.

Further investigations revealed that Hassan Yahaya’s sin was that he was perceived to be from the same town as the Chairman of Awhua Resources Limited, General Umaru Mohammed. Awhua Resources Limited recently acquired a major stake in the company (7.5%). Suleiman Yahyah’s two companies, Rosehill Group Limited and Syco Private Investments Limited, have a joint ownership of about 16% equity in Nahco. There is no love lost between General Mohammed and Yahyah, presently as their face-off led to the resignation of Yahyah from the Board.

For Barrister Maduemesi, his sin, according to an impeccable source, was his audacity and courage to say the truth to the Commission while being interrogated. A source close to the EFCC disclosed that operatives of the Commission stumbled on documents in the office of the then Company Secretary, Mrs Ode, which revealed that certain sums of money totaling $375,000 in cash were delivered to the office of Yahyah in Asokoro, Abuja, in 2015 through Mr Maduemesi. In her statement at the Commission’s office in Lagos, Mrs Ode stated as such based on which Mr Maduemesi was invited.

Mr Maduemesi, in his statement stated also how he was invited by the Company Secretary and asked to perform the duty as directed by Alhaji Yahyah, which was simply in line with his normal job function. When the former chairman got to know of the issue, he was not happy with the situation and wanted Mrs Ode and Maduemesi to change their statements and not to link him directly with the money. He preferred the narrative that the money was handed to a consultant. Mrs Ode, the source said, somehow recanted but Mr Maduemesi did not budge as he maintained that he handed the money personally to Suleiman Yahyah despite his (Yahyah) denial that he never received the money. It was gathered that the lawyer was a legal advisor with Transparency in Nigeria, a Nigerian arm of Transparency International, before joining Nahco Plc in 2011.

For the Managing Director, his sin was that he told the Commission that the company was not getting any value from the millions of naira being received by Rosehill Group Limited, a company belonging to the former Chairman, as a result of a phoney Management Service Agreement (MSA) which was one of the issues that prompted a petition to the Commission by some ex-staff of the company. Rosehill used to collect about 3.5% of the total earnings of the company. The MSA had been cancelled on the orders of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The petitioners were believed to have been sponsored by General Muhammed, who was denied a seat on the board by Alhaji Yahyah.

It was further learnt that the former Chairman, due to his discomfiture on the turn of events at the Commission, vowed that he was going to deal with the trio. He verbally issued a threat to the expatriate MD. It was in actualisation of his threat that the MD was literally forced to resign and Mr Maduemesi also asked to resign, which he resisted. Consequently, Maduemesi was shut out from the official internal network and a letter hurriedly sent to him by e-mail and courier respectively despite a letter from EFCC.

EFCC had summoned the Acting MD on the issue and asked the company to stay further action on the matter and retract the letter to Mr Maduemesi as it was a subtle way to frustrate the ongoing investigation and possible prosecution in court. This has not been complied with.

Some of those interviewed laid the blame on the door steps of EFCC as according to them the commission unduly delayed in the prosecution of the matter in court which could lead to the arraignment of the former Chairman and the directors for fraud and money laundering. One of them described the situation as “corruption fighting back”. “There is insecurity in the company as no one knows the direction the company is going, with the directors daily fleecing the company of millions of naira in welfare packages,” the source said.

•Adapted from a story by Drumnewsonline.

 


Source: News Express

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