Guinness Nigeria sues NAFDAC over N1bn fine

Guinness Nigeria Plc has filed a suit against the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) at the Igbosere High Court in Lagos, over the N1bn fine imposed on it by the agency.

The company urged the court to bar NAFDAC from publicly discussing, analyzing 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 to fair hearing as to the allegations that prompted the N1bn fine.

NAFDAC had on November 9, 2015, addressed a letter to Guinness directing it to pay the sum of 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 re-validating its expired products without authorization and supervision from the agency.

NAFDAC also accused the brewer 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.”

However, Guinness had filed a fundamental right enforcement action, urging Justice W. Animahun to declare that it’s right to fair hearing under section 36 (1) of the constitution was being violated by NAFDAC.

Also enjoined in the suit is the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, (SAN).

Guinness 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 recognized 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 resumption of court proceedings on Tuesday, Guinness lawyer, Shasore, however, told the court that the parties were making efforts to settle the matter out of court. Shasore added that representatives of Guinness and NAFDAC were meeting with the hope of resolving the dispute.

In response, NAFDAC’s lawyer, Mr. O.A. Abutu, confirmed that the parties had a meeting on December 21, but said that he was not privy to the meeting and couldn’t comment on the outcome.

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 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 court.

Justice Animahun adjourned the case till February 8, 2016.

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