Thursday, April 17, 2014

Anambra governor, Peter Obi, in brewery ownership scandal

Published:

Governor Peter Obi of Anambra

Ini Ekott

A brewery ownership scandal in Anambra state has stirred a conflict of interest concerns following allegations linking the governor, Peter Obi, to a stake in the new firm.

Mr. Obi is accused of fraudulently financing the purported government-owned company with state funds when indeed, his company has an interest in the group.

The company at the centre of the controversy, Intafact Beverages Limited, is one of the projects earmarked for commissioning by President Goodluck Jonathan who is visiting the south eastern state on Thursday.

Alongside the project, the president will commission Orient Petroleum, Orange Drugs company and Onitsha Inland Port.

Allegations have built up for weeks that Mr. Obi was promoting Intafact, jointly owned by SABMiller, a South African joint brewery venture, as a state business interest and funding the firm with more than N2 billion of Anambra government funds while also allocating shares in the company to himself.

The governor is allegedly represented on the company by his company-NEXT International Limited. Critics say in addition to using state resources to promote private interest, Mr. Obi also received through his company the shares of SABMiller in Intafact.

Some of the allegations could not be independently verified by PREMIUM TIMES.

When contacted via telephone, the governor’s media assistant, Valentine Obienyem, said he would send an emailed response to the allegations, but never did.

The allegations have triggered a firestorm of condemnation for a state executive reasonably seen as relatively transparent and more committed to state service.

A former member of the House of Representatives from the state, Chudi Offodile, called on the governor to resign on account of the alleged scandal.

“What does Governor Peter Obi understand by the oath he swore to on assumption of office:”that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or any official decisions,” Mr. Offodile said.

While the company is seen to be state-owned, documents from the Corporate Affairs Commission, available to PREMIUM TIMES, list as shareholders of the company, SABMiller, Next International Limited, and the state government.

Mr. Obi is said to have resigned his leading role at Next ahead of his election while maintaining subtle ownership of the company.

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