Relics of Jos International Breweries
By V. Al-pea
The economic state of the nation is a dismal tale when viewed through once thriving companies and industries. Even more menacing, the economic slump continues to destroy organizations that had initially survived it.
Profiling one of the companies that had fallen pray to the economic downturn, The Messenger Voice (TMV) visited Jos International Breweries (JIB). A former Plateau industrial heavyweight which was founded in 1975, JIB was a product of a tripartite investment agreement between Plateau State Government, a Danish firm and the Industrialization Fund for Developing Countries.
First opening its doors with the popular Rock Lager Beer, the company later introduced Malt Royale, a non-alcoholic beer and other drinks to diversify its product line. Within five years of its birth, JIB became a thriving company, producing 250,000 hectoliters of drinks per year.
The success allowed JIB to established new subsidiaries, which included Plateau Bottling Company, Pioneer Milling Company and Breweries Agro Research Company. Its rapid growth attracted the attention of another brewing giant, Guinness Nigeria, making it possible for both companies to sign a bottling contract that allowed JIB to maximize its capacity. Moreover, the success allowed JIB to establish a winning soccer team, the “Rock Football Club”–also known as “JIB Rock Strikers.”
To the average eye, JIB was not only here to stay, it had established itself as one of Nigeria’s leading breweries. Unfortunately, the 1990s marked a turning point. The once thriving company began to struggle, leading to the termination of the bottling contract with Guinness Nigeria in 1995. Now bleeding financially, it’s subsidiaries were sold for cash and the famous “JIB Rock Strikers” disappeared. By August 2009, production grind to a halt, an unimaginable prospect granting the company’s glorious past.
To find out what went wrong, TMV visited JIB’s factory hoping to conduct an interview with any available personnel from the company. But even before speaking to any person, while visiting the factory, the physical state of the once illustrious campus gave a vivid account of the situation. It lay desolate with the once well-groomed ornamental plants around the facility now untamed. Weeds were growing in the pavement cracks while the once carefully manicured grass was growing out of control. In between the weeds and untamed plants were relics of old abandoned vehicles, rusting and further blighting the scenery.
As luck would have it, we were able to find a former manager who was willing to converse about the company. Requesting that we keep his identity anonymous, he revealed that JIB was “forced to close shop as a result of out dated equipment and mostly because mismanagement.”
Expounding on what went wrong, the manager told TMV that the company became unprofitable, forcing it to borrow money. According to the manager, the company currently owes various contractors over N600 million. To compound matters, he added, the company owes an undisclosed financial institution over N1.4 billion.
“Since the company could not liquidate its debt, the financial institution was coerced to appoint a receiver and manager to sell the company for it to recoup its money. This attracted the attention of the state government, who, after several botched attempts towards revamping it, engaged the services of a consultant–The Deloitte Group–to woo more investors and reconcile the company’s indebtedness”
Researching the situation, TMV gathered that such an attempt to revamp JIB was initiated by the administration of Chief Michael Botmang, after he succeeded former Governor Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye. Though unconfirmed, sources pointed out that Chief Michael Botmang gave JIB N500 million. The money was however allegedly siphoned–indicative of the company’s chronic mismanagement.
Since the previous governor’s effort failed, the current state government reportedly fired the entire board. Along with firing the board, the government also sacked the former general manager of 14 years, Mr. Albert Kattiens. In his stead, Mr. Daniel Gowon was appointed head of the new interim management. Meanwhile, a new board was reconstituted with Chief John Manklink as the chairman.
Back to our conversation with the JIB manager–he further told TMV: “Not even the sum of N2 billion approved for the company by the Federal Government’s Intervention Fund for ailing industries, through the Bank of Industry could be assessed due to bad management. Although we have heard that the newly constituted management and board have opened discussions with financial institutions on how to solve the numerous problems of the company, we are praying that they succeed. As you can see, we have been forced, not by choice, to stay out of work for many months without pay,” the JIB manager concluded.
With the Plateau State authorities able to install a new management team and stop the bid to sell JIB, it appears the government prevailed over the bank that is owed N1.4 billion. Still TMV could not fully ascertain the future of JIB. Meanwhile the manager we spoke with is hopeful that the company can be resurrected and restored.