- Roger Brown is the CEO of Seplat Energy, a Nigerian company, and has been on the list of top-paid Nigerian CEOs for three years.
- Brown is a British citizen and a qualified chartered accountant with a degree in Accounting and Finance.
- Brown worked for PwC London and Standard Bank Group London before joining Seplat in 2013 as the Group Chief Financial Officer.
Since he took over from Austin Avuru as the Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy on 1st August 2020, Roger Brown has made the list of the top-paid Nigerian CEOs three years in a row. In fact, the last such analysis done by Nairametrics 10 months ago lists him as the second highest, with an earned sum of N475 million as salary in 2021.
He was second only to Michel Puchercos of Dangote Cement, who earned N531 million for the same period.
Is this the reason Roger Brown has been much in the news for the last four months? Not at all!
Brown’s mouth-watering salary has absolutely nothing to do with the countless headlines and media stories that have been focused on him in 2023 alone. It is possible that neither he nor Seplat Energy had thought they would have to deal with so much negative publicity in the first half of 2023.
In fact, one can rightly surmise that while most Nigerian residents had to grapple with the hardships induced by the cash scarcity in the first 3 months of the year, Brown had little time for such thoughts; but before delving into all of that, we will first answer the question.
Who is Roger Brown?
Be careful not to attempt a google search with that question, because you will be inundated with information of different Roger Browns in history, both living and dead. Just focus on this article to the end and you will get to know about Seplat’s Roger Brown.
His full name is Roger Thompson Brown, and like you may already know, he is not a Nigerian. He was born in Scotland and holds British citizenship. Brown is a graduate of Accounting and Finance. He is an alumnus of University of Dundee and the University of Aberdeen.
Roger Brown is a qualified Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and also now a member of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria. He has lived and worked in Nigeria for many years.
Brown worked as Financial Advisor with PwC London, United Kingdom from September 1994 till end of 2001. He then joined the Standard Bank Group, London where he served as the Managing Director and head of EMEA Oil and Gas for about a decade.
He was instrumental in providing advice and deploying capital across the African continent in the Oil & Gas, Power & Infrastructure and the renewable energy sectors. He was also serving as an advisor to Seplat for a fraction of this time.
Brown joined Seplat as Group Chief Financial Officer and board member in 2013 and held that position till 2020. He played a key role in the successful dual listing of the company on the main markets of the Nigerian and London Stock Exchanges in 2014.
Similarly, he played significant roles in various asset acquisitions by the company.
Roger Brown was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy Plc, in August 2020, following the retirement of Austin Avuru. This made him responsible for the overall strategic direction and management of Seplat Energy. He resumed the position full of energy, and with a pledge to make Seplat Energy a “net zero” company by 2050.
Brown is also a member of the board of directors of several other companies, including the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.
The recent saga
All of Brown’s efforts so far might count for nothing, when placed beside the allegations against him now. A petition dated 31st January 2023 has a long list of infractions which Mr Brown will have to answer to.
The petition accused Mr. Brown of intimidation, bullying, and sacking of Nigerian staff of SEPLAT; discriminatory retirement enforcement that sees the Nigerian employees retired at 60 in line with the company policy while expatriates 67- years old Rymll Peter, 62 years old Carl Franklin, 61-year-old Thomas Hywel, and 67 years old Lagos-based Ian Maclean remain in Seplat’s employ; abuse of corporate governance, the relegation of host communities, relocation of SEPLAT technology office to Aberdeen; intimidation of senior staff and members of the senior management team; bullying of Nigerian staff by foreign nationals; spending of over $5 million to shuttle between Lagos and his London home after allegedly collecting a relocation allowance from Seplat, etc.
Also listed is an alleged plot to sell the company to South African fronts. It read; “Mr. Roger Brown has perpetrated abuse of Corporate Governance by giving racist South African investors preferential treatment amongst other shareholders of SEPLAT.
He recently brought these investors to Nigeria and took them to our field operations without other investors from Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria.
This can be described a gross abuse of corporate governance, which prescribes that all shareholders should be treated equally.
This is also a Market Practice Abuse by the CEO. There is also information that Mr. Brown wants to secretly acquire Seplat from the Capital Market, using his South African fronts”.
The allegations were made by a group of aggrieved stakeholders, including some former employees of Seplat Energy.
Is he guilty of all of these offences?
Brown denied all of the allegations stating that he is a victim of a smear campaign by his detractors. The Board of Seplat Energy equally defended Brown, saying that he is a “highly respected” and “experienced” leader.
The Ministry of Interior on its part says that it found that there was sufficient evidence to support the claims of racism and discrimination; and subsequently revoked Brown’s visa, resident permit, and work permit.
The Ministry’s verdict was contained in a letter dated 3rd March, and it reads in part; “Testimony was received from several witnesses, which supported the allegations.
Mr. Roger T. Brown declined to attend despite two invitations, claiming to be unavailable even though we learned he was in Abuja for other purposes at the time.”
It sure sounds like it would have helped the case if Brown had shown up for their invitations. The Ministry of Interior has said that it is amenable to reopening the investigation if new evidence comes to light. But for now, no one can say how all of this will end.
Meanwhile, all of these controversies has set Seplat Energy’s share price on a downward trend, with the stock value fallen more than 20% since the allegations were made.
The latest development is that a Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the suspension of Roger Brown, chief executive officer (CEO) of Seplat Energy, Basil Omiyi, board chairman; Emma Fitzgerald, Charles Okeahalam, Fabian Ajogwu, Rabiu Bello, Bashirat Odenewu, independent non-executive directors; Edith Onwuchekwa, company secretary; and Samuel Ezeugwuorie, chief operating officer; pending the determination of motion on notice, filed by three aggrieved shareholders. Suffice to say, the entire board has been dragged into the mud with its CEO.
In the ruling on Thursday, Inyang Ekwo, the presiding judge, gave an order compelling the SEC to constitute and appoint suitable persons to run the affairs of the oil company, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed by the shareholders.
Subsequently, Seplat Energy filed an appeal to challenge the court ruling, and we will see what comes out of it.
Do Seplat founders Austin avuru and Dr. Bryant (ABC) Orjiako have any say in all of these?
It would be hard to tell. The duo have themselves stuck in another case where they were said to have been beneficiaries of Seplat’s biggest contracts in 2022. That is a story for another day.