By Innocent Anaba
LAGOS—National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has won a major legal victory in the battle against importation of fake drugs into the country.
The Kaduna division of Appeal Court, in a unanimous judgment, ordered the retrial of a criminal charge against an Indian National, Vijay Lalwani, which was earlier struck out.
NAFDAC had charged the Indian before a Federal High Court in Kano for allegedly importing fake and unregistered Rambo Aerosol Insecticide into Nigeria.
Lalwani had challenged the competence of the charge and jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge on the ground that he had earlier filed a civil suit in respect of the subject matter, and urged the court to strike out the charge for being oppressive.
The argument of the foreigner was upheld by the court, while the criminal charge was struck out.
Dissatisfied, NAFDAC appealed the verdict and urged the Appellate Court to upturn the ruling and remit the case back to the Federal High Court for trial on merit.
Justice Abdu Aboki, who read the lead judgment of the Appeal Court, held that the lower court was wrong in its decision, and ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta to re-assign the case to another judge of the court for trial on merit.
In the judgment, which was corroborated by two other justices – I.G Mbaba and H.A Abiru, the Appeal Court held that: “It is very clear that the issues for determination that were considered by the Court of Appeal in the case of Akintunde v. Ojo (Supra) by Okunola JCA (of blessed memory) who delivered the lead judgment in the aforementioned case never made any pronouncement bordering on the issue of whether concurrently pursuing a criminal as well as civil case against same person is oppressive.”
According to the four-count charge endorsed by NAFDAC’s head of Legal Unit, Kingsley Ejiofor, the Indian, whose address was given as No. 6A, Miller Road, Bompai, Kano, was said to have imported the fake drugs contrary to Section 1 (a) and (b) of the Counterfeit. And Fake Drug and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, Cap F34, LFN, 2004. He was arrested on September 2, 2010 with 780 cartons of fake Rambo Aerosol Insecticide.