Tuesday, December 22, 2015 4.31PM / Punch
Guinness Nigeria Plc has approached a Lagos High Court in Igbosere to challenge the N1bn fine imposed on it by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.
The company urged the court to perpetually restrain NAFDAC from publicly discussing, analysing or providing any information to the media, whether print, electronic or in any other manner,” to suggest that the decision to sanction it was lawful.
Guinness, through its lawyer, Mr. Olasupo Shasore (SAN), claimed that NAFDAC did not afford it the opportunity of fair hearing as to the allegations that warranted the N1bn fine.
NAFDAC had issued a letter dated November 9, 2015 on Guinness directing the company to pay N1bn “as administrative charges for various clandestine violations of NAFDAC rules, regulations and enactments over a long period of time.”
The agency claimed that Guinness had been revalidating its expired products without the authorisation and supervision of NAFDAC.
Among other things, NAFDAC also accused Guinness of failing to secure the gate of its warehouse and claimed that “the raw materials used in the production of beer and non-alcoholic beverages by the brewer were permanently opened to intrusion and exposure to the elements and rodents, which “invariably affect the integrity of the raw materials.”
But Guinness, which filed a fundamental right enforcement action, urged Justice W. Animahun to declare that its right to fair hearing under Section 36 (1) of the constitution was being violated by NAFDAC.
Sued alongside NAFDAC is the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The plaintiff urged the court to restrain the respondents, “whether by their agents, servants, officers and privies however from imposing any sanction on the applicant in any manner other than recognised by law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”
Already, Guinness had obtained an order of interim injunction by Justice Animahun barring NAFDAC from giving effect to the imposed fine pending the determination of the suit.
At the resumed proceedings on Tuesday, Guinness’ lawyer, Shasore, however, told that the parties were making moves to settle the matter out of court.
Shasore informed the court that representatives of Guinness and NAFDAC were meeting with the hope of resolving the matter.
In response, NAFDAC’s lawyer, Mr. O. M. Abutu, confirmed that the parties had had a meeting on December 21, but he said he was not privy to the meeting and had not been briefed on the outcome of the meeting.
Abutu urged the court to adjourn the matter to enable the agency reply to the originating process filed by Guinness and for possible out of court settlement of the matter.
On his own part, counsel for the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. T Mokuolu, said he had no objection to the moves by the parties to resolve the matter out of the court.
After listening to the parties, Justice Animahun adjourned the case till February 8, 2016.
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