“Closure of Idumota pharmaceutical shops, contempt of court” –Agbaje


Against the backdrop of closure of pharmaceutical shops in Idumota by Lagos State Ministry of Health, renowned legal practitioner, Mr. Fred Agbaje, has described the action as contempt of court and a clear violation of the order of the State House of Assembly.

Recalling a resolution of the State legislature during a briefing in Lagos, the lawyer said “the status quo as mandated by the judgment of the High Court should be strictly adhered to by all agencies of the state connected with the matter and that cases of incessant raids on the pharmaceutical premises at Idumota on the Lagos Island should stop forthwith pending the judgment of Appeal Court”

He submitted that “the action of sealing and locking up the premises of the medicine dealers in Idumota is not only a clear disobedience to the order of the State Legislature but also a contemptuous action in the face of the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal and a rape on the rule of law in the country”.

The Lagos State Task Force on Counterfeit, Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods, had early hours of Thursday, sealed the shops of members of the Lagos State Medicine Dealers Association (LSMDA), Island Branch as well as some non pharmaceutical shops belonging to other people in the area.

The seal notice stated that members of LSMDA are operating illegal shops in clustered area without valid registration licence, citing Counterfeit and Fake Drugs Decree No 25 of 1999 as justification for the action.  

But briefing newsmen on Friday, the Principal Partner of Agbaje Chambers, Lagos, who is legal counsel to the Lagos State Medicine Dealers Association (LSMDA), said the action of the taskforce was unlawful, in bad faith and utter disregard of a subsisting court order and demanded for immediate reopening of the shops, 
threatening to institute a court action against the government if it fails to reopen the shops. 

In a rejoinder letter addressed to the chairman, Lagos State Task Force on Counterfeit, Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods, Agbaje pointed out that there is a subsisting judgment of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, declaring that LSMDA has met all legal requirements to carry on their trade as chemists and pharmaceutical dealers and are entitled to be issued licences by the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN).

The letter captioned “Unlawful Incessant Raid and Closure of Chemists and Pharmacists Shops in Idumota” and made available Daily Sun further stated that there was a pending appeal by the PCN before the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division which demands that all parties to the dispute should maintain status quo ante pending the determination of the case.

The letter copied to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Commissioner of Police Assisstant Inspector General of Police and the Registrar of PCN pointed out that the Lagos House of Assembly passed a resolution to the effect that: “the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (taskforce) should refrain from any further harassment/arrest of the Lagos State Medicine Dealers Association (Lagos Island Zone, Idumota)”.

Still recalling resolution of the State legislature, the lawyer said “the status quo as mandated by the judgment of the High Court should be strictly adhered to by all agencies of the state connected with the matter and that cases of incessant raids on the pharmaceutical premises at Idumota on the Lagos Island should stop forthwith pending the judgment of Appeal Court”.

Against this backdrop, he submitted that “the action of sealing and locking up the premises of the medicine dealers in Idumota is not only a clear disobedience to the order of the State Legislature but also a contemptuous action in the face of the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal and a rape on the rule of law in the country”.

Chairman of the association, Sir Felix Ugbojiaku, said agents of the government were not properly informed and therefore acted in ignorance but added that ignorance of the law does not excuse the illegality of the action. 

He explained that in the ongoing legal battle with PCN and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), all other parties joined in the originating court action including Nigeria Police and its Inspector General, National Agency for Foods, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) pleaded to be exorcised from the case, having realized that their businesses are genuine and in strict compliance with regulatory laws. 

According to Ugbojiaku, a clean bill of health recently given to Idumota drugs business environs by NAFDAC after random tests were conducted on 50 drugs samples from about 30 shops in Idumota, goes to testify genuineness of their operations. 

He said “On Saturday, August 28th, 2010 the three formations of NAFDAC comprising enforcement department, R&R, and the narcotics had stormed Idumota without notice with the objective to conduct random tests on drugs sold in the area. 

“At the end of the day over 50 drugs were tested and only one failed test. And that drug that failed test was bought from a well recognized multinational company. The owner who is our member tendered the invoice of purchase, and the NAFDAC DG promised to investigate the matter to a logical conclusion”. 

Also speaking during the briefing, former Chairman of the Association, Mr. Emma Okeke, recalled that there was a harmonious relationship between PCN and their members until 1992 when the regulatory council suddenly stopped renewal and issuance of licences to members of the association saying that Idumota was a market, over which members of the association went to court and obtained favourable judgment.

He said that since then, PCN had refused to renew their licenses in spite of subsisting court order demanding that their licences be renewed but to no avail until last Thursday, when a detachment of police in company of the taskforce,sealed the shops at about 2 am.



Kelechi Mgboji writes for The Sun

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