The Board of Directors of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc has ordered its Managing Director, Mr. Norbert Bielderman, to resign his appointment following massive fraud discovered in the organization recently.

Mr. Bielderman was alleged to have colluded with the immediate past Chairman of the ground-handling company, Mallam Suleiman Yahaya, to divert contracts meant for the organization to Mr. Yahaya’s private firm.

Mr. Yahaya has been under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since this past August for his alleged role in defrauding shareholders of NAHCO and diverting the company’s funds. 

Between August and September, Mr. Yahaya was detained by the EFCC for 20 days, during which he was said to have given the anti-crime agency some useful information.

It was further gathered that contrary to a recent statement by the spokesman of NAHCO, Mr. Tayo Ajakaye, that Mr. Yahaya resigned on health grounds, he actually threw in the towel in the face of evidence of corruption against him by the board of directors and the EFCC.

SaharaReporters learnt, in one instance, that Mr. Yahaya was sent to Belgium by the NAHCO board to negotiate the company’s shares held by the liquidated Belgian carrier, Sabena Airlines, some years back. But rather than negotiate for NAHCO, he allegedly negotiated for himself by fronting his company, Rosehill Group Limited (“RHG”), as the intended buyer of Sabena Airline’s shares in NAHCO.

According to a petition, between 2008 and 2009, Mr. Yahaya succeeded in concluding the deal and paid for the Sabena Airlines’ shares in NAHCO through a N2billion loan he secured from legacy Oceanic International Bank Ltd.

He was said to have emerged as the single, largest individual shareholder in NAHCO, with other indirect shareholdings through fronts and protégés. For instance, General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd.) was brought into the NAHCO board as representing Rosehill Group under this arrangement.

A source close to the ground-handling company told our correspondent that the NAHCO board, at a meeting held at the company’s headquarters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) in Lagos last week, told Mr. Bielderman to resign his appointment.

The German was appointed the substantive Managing Director of NAHCO about a year ago. But since his appointment, the ground-handling firm has been swimming from one troubled waters to another. SaharaReporters learnt that apart from the fraud issue picked upon by the board, members also lamented that since Mr. Bielderman came on board, many of the company’s clients have abandoned it for its competitor, the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL).

“There are lots of frauds going on in NAHCO. In fact, the management and the board are hiding a lot of things from the staff. The former Chairman, Yahaya, in active connivance with his cronies in the company, has over the years defrauded the company to the tune of several millions of naira,” one source said.

“We only got to know this recently through a petition written to the EFCC by one of our former directors who blew everything open. The former director had left under a curious circumstance. Just last week, the board of directors advised our Managing Director to resign his appointment. He too played a part in the fraud in the company because he was said to have been close to Yahaya,” the source added.

NAHCO has lost some of its important clients to SAHCOL since the fraud allegation first came to light in August. The first to relocate its services from the ground handling company was Air France-KLM, which moved its cargo operations to SAHCOL.

Just last month, Ethiopian Airlines also moved its cargo operations to SHACOL, while other foreign carriers with integrity are contemplating a similar move.

Before now, NAHCO controlled 75 per cent of handling of foreign carriers, while it shared the local carriers’ handling with SAHCOL. But now, SAHCOL has taken the center stage among the international carriers, while the fortunes of NAHCO have also dwindled among local carriers.

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