Nigeria’s largest brewer, Nigerian Breweries Plc has reacted to an alleged corruption case published by Premium Times. In a statement obtained by Nairametrics, the brewing company acknowledged that it’s aware of the incident that happened about two years ago and claimed that it had “moved to quickly to comprehensively address the issue.”
“At Heineken, we do not tolerate bribery or corruption at any level. If an allegation emerges, a thorough investigation is carried out to establish the facts and, if necessary disciplinary action is taken – regardless of the role or position. In this case, we took exactly that approach and moved quickly to comprehensively address the issue. Both the Board of Nigerian Breweries and HEINEKEN conducted an internal and external audit and investigation. “The Board and Management of Nigerian Breweries Plc remain committed to upholding Nigerian Laws and managing our operations in the most responsible and compliant way.”
Nigeria Breweries did not make any mention of the former CEO of Nigeria Breweries, Nico Vervelde and his wife Clémentine Vervelde accused of corruption in the article.
The alleged corruption: An award-winning investigative report by Follow the Money, a Dutch news website had revealed a corruption case involving the former CEO and his wife.
- A diesel supplier at Nigeria Breweries Amadu Sule alleged that he was given a contract to supply diesel by the Clementina after a meeting with her spouse at Radisson Blu Hotel, VI Lagos.
- In exchange for the giving him the contract, Sule was to give her kickbacks.
- Nigeria Breweries buys about 3 million litres of diesel per month for its several brewery plants across the country. It was valued at about $61 million
- The deal, however, went sour when several suppliers got interested in the deal and wanted a piece of the pie. Some accused Sule of supplying substandard diesel which he blamed on vested interest inside the company.
- Eventually, there was a fire that the company blamed on Sule’s company cutting back his supply quota.
- He eventually took the matter to the police forcing the company to transfer the CEO out of Nigeria to Singapore and paying about $2 million in settlement for the claims.
The optics: This case is a further justification of high-level corruption taken place at large corporations across Nigeria at the expense of shareholders. While these companies struggle with cutting costs and increasing bottom lines, managers line their pockets full of bribes and proceeds of insider and related party contracts.
It also reveals corruption complicity among foreign nationals holding top executive positions in Nigerian companies. The report claims the Vervelde’s denied the allegations of corruption, but Nigeria Breweries did not absolve them of corruption either. Nigeria Breweries share price is down 44% in the last one year.