Nigeria: Rising Against Smear Campaign

23 October 2020

The Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc has risen to expose and denounce the efforts to damage its reputation by ex-officials of the organisation.

The company recently replied the erstwhile managing director of its subsidiary, NAHCO Free Trade Zone (FTZ), Mr. Baba Yusuf, who accused the company of using its facility to conceal illegal weapons and not paying him due severance package when he parted with the company and described the allegation as baseless and malicious.

The company explained that it could not conceal anything cargo in its warehouse because both Nigerian Customs Service and its officials have equal access to the warehouse and insisted that it does not owe Yusuf any reverence payment.

Group Managing Director of NAHCO, Mrs. Olatokunbo Fagbemi, who led other top managers of the company to brief journalists at the NFTZ, said throughout his stay in the company, Yusuf did not at any time, raise any of the allegations as issues of concern or requiring Board or management attention.

She said he resigned his appointment in 2018 after spending seven months as Managing Director of NAHCO FTZ, adding that, "he was responsible for setting up the NAHCO FZ business development process, warehouse farcicalities and controls as well as having full operational accountability for it and oversaw everything he is now making malicious and false claims about."

Fagbemi said Yusuf attempted and failed to force NFZ to pay him an underserved severance package of N125, 900, 000 as his performance bonus for seven months of non-performance as the MD of NFZ.

"He then through his lawyer threatened reputational damage to NAHCO by petitioning different investigative bodies to review his tenure and file an action in court for recovery of his perceived claim, warning that his action would materially damage the corporate reputation and operations of NFZ.

"Rather than pursue his claim in court as he wrote, he has resorted to several act of blackmail, arm twisting and extortion by writing various petitions with baseless allegations to several agencies and arms of government. These allegations have material implications for national security. We state categorically that we have nothing to hide but we are not in the habit of paying for work not done or value not derived.

"We have opened our books and facilities to several investigative agencies and regulators inclusive of NEPZA following the petition and these agencies have written reports on their findings which should aid the House of Representatives committee on Public petitions' enquiry, rather than the ongoing false and misleading media reportage.

"Our operations are properly regulated by the relevant regulatory and governmental agencies, such as Corporate Affairs Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigerian Customs Service, Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Police Explosive Units, amongst others.

"NAHCO operates in highly controlled environment under Nigeria Customs Service, NDLEA, DSS, FAAN AVSEC and NCAA. Keys to our warehouses are held jointly by us and the NCS. The Video shown on the media broadcast is of no consequence and it shows empty containers parked at designated locations in the open bay. As a responsible corporate organization, NAHCO will not succumb to extortion by Mr. Yusuf.

"We would like state that NAHCO'S silenced on the matter is in no way an acceptance of guilt, rather, we are guided by the advice of our solicitors not discuss the details of a matter which is already before a court of law, where in due course, Baba Yusuf must provide facts on the allegations levelled. We also have it in good authority that the fulcrum of the attacks by Mr. Yusuf are all tied to an attempt for a hostile takeover of the operations of NAHCO and NFZ by a faceless group using him as their front."

On the claim of severance package of N125, 900, 000 by Yusuf, the company Secretary, NAHCO FTZ, Mrs. Olaitan Ashipa, explained that he (Yusuf), was paid N5 million upfront as housing allowance when he assumed office, adding that after an evaluation of his performance, it was discovered that he was not entitled to the amount he claimed.

She also disclosed that Yusuf would refund N250, 000 apart from the company's Laptop in his possession.

Also speaking, the Legal Adviser to NAHCO, Norison Quakers, said the allegations cannot be substantiated, noting that NAHCO has gone to court and will not be deterred by the campaign to smear the image of the company.

"The facts and matter before the National Assembly are already before the court. We went the National Assembly in March notifying them that the matter is in court, they have responded, but it appears that the National Assembly is going ahead with the hearing, this is a brazing regard for the sanctity of law", he said.

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