A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday restrained the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and eight others from releasing for public use a banned chemical, methyl bromide imported into the country by a limited liability company, Toon Consolidated Company Limited.
The order of the presiding Judge, Oluremi Oguntoyinbo. was as a result of submission of Barrister Olukayode Enitan (SAN), lawyer to a retired judge of the Osun State High Court, Justice Olamide Oloyede and Virtues Unlimited Restorative Justice Initiative (VURJI). They told the court that NAFDAC had released the alleged dangerous chemical to the importer.
Other defendants affected by the Order of the court are: the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS), National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Justice.
The plaintiffs, Justice Oloyede and VURJI are seeking the court’s order to compel the defendants to investigate, identify and destroy in a healthy and safe manner any methyl bromide, an odorless, colorless gas used to control pests in agriculture which has serious negative effect on humans and the environment.
They are also urging the court to declare that the alleged importation of the banned chemical substance into Nigeria by Toon Consolidated Company Limited pursuant to the license issued by NAQS without the permit of NAFDAC is unlawful and illegal.
Enitan informed the court that he had filed a motion for injunction seeking to stop the defendants from deploying the chemical for public use pending the determination of the suit.
However, his application could not be heard because all the defendants’ counsel present in court asked for time to respond to it.
Following this development, Enitan SAN urged Justice Oguntoyinb to issued an interim order to forestall the release of the chemical to the importer.
The senior lawyer alleged that NAFDAC had already released the ban methyl bromide to importer after imposing a fine of N300,000 on it.
He also alleged that NAFDAC issued a permit to the importer after it was served with the processes in the case and backdated it.
Enitan further alleged that the defendants have constructed a 40ft container to serve as fumigating chamber where the chemical would be used.
He said that the court needed to protect Nigerians from the harmful effects of the chemical.
However, counsel to NAFDAC, Barthllomew. Simon denied the allegations, stating that the agency issued the permit before it was served with the processes.
On his part, lawyer to the Quarantine Services, O. A. Omasa, told the court not to grant the interim order because the country stood to lose millions of Naira.
The lawyer disclosed that the Chemical was now in the custody of the Quarantine Services and that it had the capacity and expertise to manage its use.
He said that the agency allow the importation of methyl bromide because it was used to preserve herbivore flower exported to Mexico.
In her ruling, Justice Oguntoyinbo ordered that all parties in the case must maintain status quo until the hearing of the motion for interlocutory injunction.
Before adjourning the case to December 2, the judge warned that all the defendants must obey the order or be cited for contempt.