Retired Judge, NGO, Sue NAFDAC, Others over Importation of Banned Chemical

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By Akinawle Akintunde

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has been asked to compel the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) 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 effects on humans and the environment.

A retired Judge of the Osun State High Court, Justice Olamide Oloyede and Virtues Unlimited Restorative Justice Initiative (VURJI), prayed the court to grant the relief in a suit they instituted against NAFDAC and eight others, before the court.

In the suit before Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, the Claimants are also urging the court to declare that the alleged importation of the banned chemical substance into Nigeria by a Lagos based company, Toon Consolidated Company Limited pursuant to the license issued by the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) and without the permit of NAFDAC, is unlawful and illegal.

Other Defendants in the case are: 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.

In a 32-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the suit and personally sworn to by the retired Judge, she claimed that the agro-chemical had been banned in Nigeria because it was dangerous to human health, and caused environmental hazards by depleting the ozone layer.

The VURJI coordinator also averred that, methyl bromide when used as a fumigant and pesticide, exposes humans to severe injuries including lung damage, because it is highly toxic.

Justice Oloyede also stated that, due to the dangers it poses to humans and the environment, NAFDAC banned its importation and use as a fumigant in the country, on February 20, 2019.

, however, alleged that it came to the knowledge of the Plaintiffs that, Toon Consolidated Company Limited was given a permit by NAQS to import 45 cylinders of methyl bromide into Nigeria, and use same as pesticide in the country.

The retired Judge further stated that, the current grant of permit of the use of methyl bromide, a banned chemical substance that is not permitted to be imported into Nigeria by NAQS to any person, is ultra vires its powers, illegal and unlawful.

“I know for a fact that, the continuous use of methyl bromide constitutes a hazard to the Nigerian public and stratosphere, and will eventually foist greater hardship on Nigeria a country currently dealing with other developmental issues”, she insisted.

]The Plaintiffs are therefore, asking Justice Oguntoyinbo to determine whether NAFDAC is the agency of the Federal Government with the statutory functions and duties, among other things, to regulate and control the importation, distribution, sale and use of chemicals and grant authorisation for the import of psycho-tropic substances, has the power to ban the importation of methyl bromide.

They also want the court to determine, whether the power and functions of the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service includes the granting of licenses for the importation of chemical substances into Nigeria.

Whether NAQS did not exceed its statutory authority, power and functions as provided under Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) Act, 2017, when it granted a licence to the third Defendant to import 45 cylinders of methyl bromide into Nigeria.

But, in its counter-affidavit to the suit, NAQS asked the court to dismiss the case, because the Plaintiffs do not have the locus standi to institute the action against the Defendant, as it has not shown that it has sufficient interest or right which is not vague or intangible.

NAQS also maintained that, the case of the Plaintiffs is hinged on mere suspicion and untruths against it, and the entire gamut of the processes filed by the Plaintiffs before the court disclose no reasonable cause of action.

The Federal Agency also stated that, the suit as presently constituted, is incompetent and a flagrant abuse of court process.

Justice Oguntoyinbo has adjourned the case to November 19, for the hearing of all pending applications.