Soludo’s Half-truth About Peter Obi’s Investments In International Breweries Plc

Source: Chinonso Ndukwe (Ph.D)

In his outright denial that Peter Obi’s $20 million investment in SABMiller has grossed up to $100 million as many bloggers claimed on Twitter on 29 April 2022, without providing further evidence on the fact that indeed Anambra State has shares in the organization which have been profitable as at the time Peter Obi made the claim in 2018, shows that Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo is hiding something from the media about Peter Obi’s economic expertise which he once denied publicly.

Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo refused to say that as at 2019 Anambra State government holds 4.7percent in International Brewery Plc. Remember SABMiller holds 47.4 percent of International Breweries Plc. But in 2016 AB InBev acquired SABMiller worldwide and by extension, their subsidiaries in Africa. In 2017 International breweries PLC also merged with Intafact Beverage Limited and Pabod Breweries Limited. Now AB-InBev, controls over 70 percent of the larger International Brewery, with direct and indirect stake of 75.1percent representing the 47.4percent held by SABMiller Nigeria Holdings BV, and 27.7percent held by Brauhaase International Management GMBH, plus minority shareholdings.

This makes Anambra State a huge shareholder in AB-InBev since its majority shareholding in Intafact Beverages Limited and Pabod Breweries Limited were merged with International Breweries PLC through a scheme of merger sanctioned by the Court and Regulatory authorities in order to provide for the optimization of efficiencies, leverage on economies of scale and shareholder value creation. This International Brewery Plc is the largest in Nigeria today, operating in SS, SW, SE courtesy of Peter Obi’s economic revolutionary strategy. Why did Soludo keep these facts from the media while denying that he didn’t make the trending statement on social media?

Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo was the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria between 29 May 2004 – 29 May 2009. By the time his tenure elapsed, Peter Obi was the governor of Anambra State and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was the Vice President to President Umaru Yaradua. After his first tenure he lobbied the presidency and the state to push for his re-election but the rattling miscues within the central bank at the time made it impossible for President Umaru Yar'Adua to re-appoint the embattled Nigerian Central Bank Governor Chukwuma Soludo to a second term.

More so, an advisory by Euroasia, the leading political risk research and consulting firm based in New York written by Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, analyst for Middle East and Africa catalogued a number of the apex bank's policy somersaults, condescending statements talking up the economy and flip-flops which together with other issues have helped to dent the governor's re-election chances. This was coupled with a currency printing crime.

The former governor of the CBN blamed his predicament on both the government at the federal and the state level. This began the secret bad blood that exist between Peter Obi and Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo to date. Therefore this bad blood thickened when the former governor brought Willie Obiano from Fidelity Bank to vie for the gubernatorial position in 2013 against the wish of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) bigwigs that wanted Charles Soludo to run for the position then. When Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo’s tenure was never extended at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) he was badly injured.

And his angst climaxed in 2013, under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration, when the Economic Financial Crimes (EFCC) arrested Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo from his Abuja residence, and detained him overnight, in connection with the controversial contract he awarded to an Australian firm for the printing of polymer currency notes while he was governor of the CBN between 2006 and 2008. It was popularly called the “polymer note scam”. The petition against Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo had drawn the attention of the anti-corruption agencies to the fact that the firm that reportedly got the job from Soludo admitted paying some N750 million in bribes to some officials of the CBN between 2006 and 2008 in order to secure the contract to make polymer notes for Nigeria.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) had already probed the alleged N750million offered by Securency to CBN to win the contract. Although the contract for the printing of N5, N10, N50 notes were awarded in April 2009, the bribery scandal involving Securency was allegedly perpetrated in 2006 under Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo. This was such an unimaginable embarrassment for the CBN governor that afterwards he relocated to the diaspora. Then Salusi Lamido Salusi was at the CBN.

This serious matter tarnished his image and made him a sworn foe to former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. This was why Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo worked with the All Progressive Congress against president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2015. And he may likely work against Peter Obi’s Labour Party because at the time of his EFCC challenge Peter Obi was working with the PDP government of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

I make this claims because as the sitting governor in Anambra State at the time, Peter Obi’s intervention led to the disqualification of Charles Chukwuma Soludo from APGA in 2013. Through out Soludo’s travail at CBN and at APGA,he felt that Peter Obi and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who was the Finance Minister under former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan never looked out for him. In fact he felt they were behind his challenges as Peter Obi claimed on one of his rebuttals to Prof. Soludo’s media war against them.

In a Premium Times article titled “Soludo holds fire, but insists N30 trillion, plus AU’s N8.6trillion missing under Okonjo-Iweala” By

Bassey Udo February 4, 2015, Charles Chukwuma Soludo wrote this at the peak of the election to demean former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan:

“Let me also state for the avoidance of doubt that I stand by every statement I made in the two articles viz: (1) “Buhari Vs Jonathan: Beyond the Elections”; and (2) “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Missing Trillions”. In particular, I insist that over N30 trillion has either been stolen or unaccounted for, or grossly mismanaged over the last few years. This figure does not include the estimated $40.9 billion (N8.6 trillion at parallel market exchange rate or nearly two years’ Federal Government budget) which the African Union’s (AU) recent report claims to be “stolen” from Nigeria each year.”

This article corroborated with the negative reviews in the media in swaying the electorate against Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2015. It was as outrageous as it was cynical.

In a previous publication on Vanguard on January 25 2015 titled “Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election”, Charles Soludo mocked President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for hiring Peter Obi as part of his economic team. In his article in reference to one of the debates about the elections in 2015 he claimed that :

“One of those present took the satire to some level by comparing Jonathan to the ‘performance’ of the former Governor of Anambra, Peter Obi. He noted that while Obi gloated about ‘savings’, there is no signature project to remember his regime except that his regime took the first position among all states in Nigeria in the democratization of poverty—- mass impoverishment of the people of Anambra.

“According to the National Bureau of Statistics, poverty rose under his watch in Anambra from 20% in 2004 (lowest in Nigeria then) to 68% in 2010 (a 238% deterioration!).”

“Our friend likened it to a father who had no idea of what to do with his resources and was celebrating his fat bank account while his children were dying of kwashiorkor. He pointed out that since it is the likes of Peter Obi who are the advisers to Jonathan on how to manage the economy (thereby confusing micromanagement which you do as a trader with macro governance) it is little wonder that poverty is fast becoming another name for Nigeria. It was a very hilarious evening.

“My advice to President Jonathan and his handlers is to stop wasting their time trying to campaign on his job record. Those who have decided to vote for him will not do so because he has taken Nigeria to the moon. His record on the economy is a clear ‘F’ grade. As one reviews the laundry list of micro interventions the government calls its achievements, one wonders whether such list is all that the government could deliver with an unprecedented oil boom and an unprecedented public debt accumulation.”

He didn’t only deny Peter Obi’s economic revolutionary policies in Anambra State at the time, Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo called former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan the worst president in Nigeria’s history while trying to caricaturise Peter Obi’s contributions to GEJ’s administration’s policies on the economy.

In Peter Obi‘s reply to Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo on Daily Post 27 January 2015 which was titled, “Peter Obi replies Soludo, says he is haunted by his past”, he said:

“Talking about signature project, Obi has them in abundance. He built over 30 bridges, built the State Secretariat, built the teaching hospital, built the permanent site of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu University, rebuilt Iyienu, Borromeo hospitals, Holy Rosary and St Joseph hospitals; and Our Lady of Lourdes among many hospitals with signature structures dotting them.

“Beyond the foregoing”, the former governor of Anambra State continued, “Soludo should be told that Obi did much more in areas that are far more important than mere structures. He returned schools to the Church and committed billions that could build any form of signature project of Soludo’s imagination. Because of this, Anambra State is today the number one in external examinations in the country.

”Moreover, he changed the psyche of the people of the State and removed Anambra State from her pariahs status to one of the exemplary States in the country.”

The current problems of the current government of President Mohammadu Buhari which the current governor of Anambra State Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo worked for have proven that Peter Obi, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan were better economic managers. Even the plausibility of the investment of Anambra State funds in SABMiller can’t be denied as Peter Obi claimed in 2018, and even in his recent interview on Ahmed Isah’s radio program popular called Brekete Family.

To the point of Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo’s denial :

1. First of all, by 2018 Diageo-owned Guinness has been displaced by Peter Obi’s International Breweries Plc. in Nigeria, both in market share and market value. Peter Obi had seen that the organization has a future and decided to invest in it. That showed he knows economics. He didn’t find International Breweries PLC but he grew it by attracting investment into it.

2. As at 2019 Anambra State government holds 4.7percent in International Brewery Plc. Remember SABMiller holds 47.4 percent of International Breweries Plc.

3. International Breweries PLC made N132.35bn in 2019, compared to N120.61bn in 2018. This shows Peter Obi has gravitas in economic planning and management. Anambra State is making profit in the investment in International Breweries.

4. Therefore, Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo didn’t deny that Peter Obi brought SABmiller, then second largest brewer to Onitsha in 2012; and because of the macroeconomic factors the powerful mayor offered, SABMiller made an initial investment of over US$100m in a beverage company known as Intafact Beverages Limited which was based in Onitsha. We await the businesses he will bring.

5. Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo only said he didn’t make this statement of $100 million profit trending on Twitter since April:

“Charles Soludo has confirmed that $20M invested by Peter Obi as governor on behalf of the state in Sabmiller Group is now worth $100M.At a time when Nigeria is barely clinging onto life amidst humongous debts & an insane cost of governance,Peter Obi is who we need.#PeterObi2023 (8:51 PM · Apr 29, 2022)”

6. Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo didn’t specifically state the details of the relationship between Anambra State and Anheuser-Busch InBev. If he makes that statement he would either cause ululation for Peter Obi, expose the mistakes of his predecessors or make him eat his words of criticism against Peter Obi’s economic prudentiality in the past.

7. The fact is that because of Peter Obi the world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev through Nigeria International Breweries Plc, and its partner Interfact Beverage Plc, improved Nigeria’s economy. According to Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, the SEC and the Nigeria Stock exchange (NSE) have granted Anheuser-Busch InBev regulatory approvals for its huge investment and partnership with Anambra State government.

8. Peter Obi said he invested $20 million in SABMiller plc, which was on 10 October 2016 acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev for £69 billion ($US107 billion). Peter Obi said that the shares has grown to $100 per share. As of 2019 Anheuser-Busch InBev’s total assets was about US$236.65 billion (2019), its total equity then, US$84.55 billion, its revenue about US$53.22 billion. That growth is defendable because he even made the statement in 2018.

9. Warren Buffet used to hold 61% of Anheuser-Busch which he sold in 2008. I am disappointed with those who claim that Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo denied the existence of such investment. Charles Chukwuma Soludo’s denial of the fact that he didn’t make the post trending doesn’t show the real situation of matter.

10. The way Governor Soludo denied the investment shows that he is not concerned about Peter Obi’s rising profile and 2023 project and doesn’t want to be part of any false narrative. That is too clumsy and he is sending bad signals to the electorate. He should forgive and do better for his brother. This is not about Anambra State. This is about Nigeria. Let the bad blood disappear.

Chinonso Ndukwe (Ph.D) wrote from Abuja. (He is a lecturer with the National Open University of Nigeria)