The recent sack of Justice Gladys Olotu of the Federal High Court has stalled proceedings in a suit brought by the Nigeria Association of Patent and Proprietary Medicine Dealers (NAPPMED).
Recall that President Goodluck Jonathan recently approved Justice Olotu’s sack following a recommendation by the National Judicial Council (NJC) on Feb. 27. NAPPMED had in the suit filed by its counsel, Mr. Val Igboanusi, asked the court to nullify the 2003 guidelines for issuing patent medicine vendors’ license.
Joined in the suit are the Minister of Health, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as first, second and third defendants, respectively. The case was earlier assigned to Justice Olotu and was slated for mentioning before she was relieved of her job as a Federal High Court Judge.
The matter was then fixed for mention on April 15 but a court official said the matter could not proceed because it had not been assigned to another judge.
The official also said the issue was further compounded by Olotu’s pending suit challenging her compulsory retirement. NAPPMED’s counsel, therefore, wrote a letter dated April 14, 2014, signed by him, asking the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to re-assign the case to another court for trial.
“We humbly apply for the re-assignment of Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/872/13 which hearing has not commenced before the retirement of the Honourable Judge, Justice G. Olotu,’’ he wrote.
NAPPMED had in its originating summons, accompanied by an affidavit by its national chairman, Mr. Vincent Mamah, prayed the court to nullify the said guidelines.
It also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the first and second defendants and all its branches from issuing patent and proprietary medicine vendors’ licence under the 2003 guidelines.
NAPPMED also prayed the court for a perpetual injunction restraining the second defendant and its state branches from intimidating, harassing, arresting and/or closing its members’ shops or stores.
The association claimed that the issuance of guidelines on patent and proprietary medicines licence in Nigeria was already enshrined in the Pharmacy Act and covered by a judgment.
NAPPMED said it had gone through a protracted legal battle with the defendants on the issue and judgment was delivered in its favour on Sept. 24, 1996 by Justice Ibrahim Auta of the Federal High Court.
It said that following the judgment which was not appealed, it entered into an agreement with the first defendant on Dec. 22, 1997, transferring the issuance of the licence to state ministries of health.
The plaintiff said that in violation of the agreement and judgment, in 2003, the second defendant re-issued the guidelines which were earlier nullified, yet the first defendant approved them.
“By the issuance of the same guidelines in 2003, the defendants have re-opened the issues decided by the court of competent jurisdiction delivered by Justice Auta on Sept. 24, 1996,’’ Igboanusi argued.
The plaintiff’s counsel further contended that by virtue of Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, legislative powers rested in the National Assembly and state assemblies.
“The Minister of Health and the Pharmacists Council cannot make laws or subsidiary legislation pertaining to issuance of patent and proprietary medicine’s vendors’ licence 2003, without first amending the law to confer on the such powers,’’ he said.
He said that following the second defendant’s action, the plaintiff instructed his partner, Mr. Festus Okoye, to write to the third defendant (Minister of Justice) for his intervention but there was no response to the letter.
The plaintiff, therefore, prayed the court to set aside the guidelines issued in 2003 by the second defendant and grant all the reliefs contained in the originating summons.
However, Mr. Abdullahi Abubakar, counsel to the Attorney-General, in his written submission before the court, opposed NAPPMED’s application and urged the court to dismiss the suit.
Abubakar said the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear, entertain or determine the suit, having regard to the provisions of the Evidence Act 2011.
Notwithstanding the uncertainty surrounding the case, a tentative adjourned date of June 24, was fixed, subject to the re-assigning of the case to a new judge.