by Kelvin Osa-okunbor,
Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO Aviance) PLC Managing Director Nobert Bielderman has said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating the company’s operations because of one of its investors.
Bielderman, in response to The Nation’senquiry, said the anti-graft agency wrote to NAHCO about AWHUA, a shareholder in the ground-handling firm, but was silent on the subject of the investigation.
However, investigation revealed that EFCC’s probe and its correspondence to NAHCO may not be unconnected with the source of funds AWHUA invested in NAHCO shares.
Responding to questions on the firm’s operations and other issues relating to the Board of Directors and sitting allowances, Bielderman said: ‘’Yes, we can confirm that the EFCC is carrying out investigations in NAHCO. The management received a letter from the EFCC concerning a probe into the activities of AWHUA, but the letter did not mention that the anti-graft agency was probing the source of funds invested into NAHCO shares by AWHUA.
“I can confirm to you that representatives of AWHUA Group and Rosehill Group were not stopped from attending the Board of Directors meeting. They were only delayed on account of ongoing investigations by the EFCC.”
He said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had also given a ruling on the matter.
“It is also good to place it on record that the Management Service Agreement (MSA) has been stopped after its duration expired and not necessarily because the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered it.”
On why Mr. Ike Nwachukwu resigned from the Board, Bielderman said: “I can also confirm that Mr Ike Nwachukwu has resigned from the board for personal reasons after years of valuable service to the company.”
He denied allegations against some directors that they were collecting about $20,000 each yearly as rest and recuperation allowance.
“It is not true that board members in NAHCO collect far in excess of $20,000 annually as rest and recuperation allowance for their family members to travel abroad.” He, however, did not disclose how much the directors were being paid.
Denying allegations that directors were collecting huge sums ranging from N200,000 per sitting, to N300,000 for return tickets for those not residing in Lagos, and another N150,000 for accommodation, the NAHCO boss, admitted that it was a normal practice for sitting allowances to be paid.
He said: “It is normal for sitting allowances to be paid to some directors in the course of their service to any company. It is not peculiar to NAHCO. Hotel accommodation and airline tickets are also provided for those outside Lagos. However, the amount involved is lower than the figures mentioned.”
In the last few months, some of its major shareholders have been on the radar of security and anti-graft agencies for alleged infractions.
Last week, EFCC began another round of investigations into the source of funds of a major shareholder, AWHUA Resources Limited.
AWHUA, by equity holding, is the third individual largest investor in NAHCO.
Investigations reveal that as at February 28, AWHUA Resources Limited held 7.11 per cent shares in NAHCO Aviance. Rosehill Group has 9.52 per cent equity, while Sycor Private Investment Limited has 8.95 per cent. Lufthansa Commercial Holding has six per cent with Air France holding 5.81 per cent .
Other institutional investors, including banks, airlines, and pension funds administrators, also have investments; but these are fragmented and not under a single control.
Investigations reveal the anti-graft agency is looking into the books to ascertain where AWHUA sourced funds from.
The EFCC, in a letter to Bielderman, informed him that AWHUA’s investment should be put on hold pending the result of the investigations.
On July 28, EFCC began investigations into the activities of the former Chairman of the board, Mallam Sulaiman Yahyah, and his company Rosehill Group.
Yahyah’s investigation stemmed from a petition to the EFCC by a former staff member of the Legal Services Department of the company, in which he alleged money laundering, stealing of company’s funds through various means.
Sequel to the petition, the EFCC stormed the company’s head office on July 28, where its officials took away some documents.
During the EFCC raid, the Acting Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Bamidele Adelaja, was interrogated.
The petition also led to the arrest and detention of Yahyah for about two weeks at the Ikoyi office of the EFCC.
During the last investigations by the EFCC, the Executive Director, Legal, Corporate and Company Secretary, Mrs. Folashade Ode, was also asked to report to the EFCC daily to assist in the investigation.
Also reporting to the EFCC almost daily is Adelaja, who was asked to provide invoices and transaction records.
A few weeks ago,Suleman resigned, citing health reasons.
Last week, Nwachukwu also resigned from the company