A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday restrained the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and eight others from deploying for public use a banned chemical, methyl bromide, imported into the country by Toon Consolidated Company Limited.
Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo gave the order after Olukayode Enitan (SAN), lawyer to a retired judge of the Osun State High Court, Justice Olamide Oloyede, and Virtues Unlimited Restorative Justice Initiative told the court that NAFDAC had released the alleged dangerous chemical to the importer.
Other defendants affected by the interim order are the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services, 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.
Justice Oloyede and VURJI are before the court seeking an order to compel the defendants to investigate, identify and destroy in a healthy and safe manner any methyl bromide, an odourless, colourless 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.
When the case came up for hearing on Monday, Enitan informed the court that he had filed a motion for interlocutory injunction seeking to stop the defendants from deploying the chemical for public use pending the determination of the suit.
However, his motion could not be moved because the defendants’ counsel present in court asked for time to respond to it.
Following the development, Enitan urged Justice Oguntoyinbo to issue an interim order to preserve the rest of the suit.
The senior lawyer alleged that NAFDAC had already released the banned methyl bromide to the importer after imposing a fine of N350,000 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 claimed that the defendants had constructed a four-foot container to serve as fumigating chamber where the chemical will be used.
He said that the court needs to protect Nigerians from the harmful effects of the chemical.
However, counsel to NAFDAC, B. Simon denied the allegations, stating that the agency issued the permit before it was served 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 stands to lose millions of naira.
The lawyer disclosed that the chemical was now in the custody of the Quarantine Services and it had the capacity and expertise to manage its use.
In her ruling, Justice Oguntoyinbo granted the order, holding 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.
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