My Pikin: Court Affirms Convicts’ 7-Year Sentence

my_pikinThe Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has upheld the judgment of a Lagos High Court, which sentenced two employees of Barewa Pharmaceutical Company Limited to seven years imprisonment each for selling a contaminated teething syrup- “My Pikin”.

The contaminated syrup was said to have led to the Death of some babies.

In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Chinwe Iyozoba on Tuesday, the Appeal Court held that samples of the contaminated drug were tested in a laboratory, adding that the process was clear, smooth and there was no need for additional scientific evidence being requested by the appellants.

The court, however, held that the lower court was wrong when it convicted the appellants on the offence of conspiracy adding that the prosecution did not establish any evidence showing that the appellants conspired to manufacture and distribute contaminated drugs.

Consequently, the appeal court set-aside their conviction on conspiracy but added that it will not have any effect on the 7-year sentence since the jail term will run concurrently.

The court also set aside the order of the lower court winding up the company and the forfeiture of its assets to the Federal Government.

The court held that Section 118(b) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act did not empower the trial judge to wind-up the company and order forfeiture of its assets.

The court further held that what the trial judge ought to have done was to order forfeiture of the contaminated drugs and not the company.

However, the court imposed N1 million fine against the appellants.

This is the second time the case is coming to the Court of Appeal after the Supreme Court had ordered the appellate court to hear the case on the valid ground of appeal filed before it in July 2013.

Justice Okechukwu Okeke of a Federal High Court in Lagos had sentenced two men, Adeyemo Abiodun and Ebele Eromosele on May 17, 2013 for selling the syrup known as “My Pikin’’.

The convicts were employees of the Barewa Pharmaceutical Company Limited Lagos.

They were prosecuted by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Justice Okeke found the duo guilty of conspiracy and sale of the adulterated teething mixture, which was said to have caused the death of more than 80 children in Nigeria.

The court had also ordered that the company should wind up and its asset forfeited to the Federal Government.

Dissatisfied, the appellants urged the Court of Appeal to set aside the entire judgement.

But in its judgement delivered by Justice Sidi Bage, the appeal court affirmed the 7-year sentence, but reversed the order for winding up and forfeiture.

The judge held that the prosecution sufficiently proved that the men committed the offences.

But, the Supreme Court faulted the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, which upheld their conviction.

The Supreme Court, faulted the judgement on the ground that it was determined on an abandoned notice and grounds of appeal.

The apex court in its verdict delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, then ordered that the appeal be remitted to the Court of Appeal, Lagos for it to hear the appeals on the “valid notice/grounds of appeal” filed on July 3, 2013.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour noted that, of all the issues raised in the appeals, it was discovered that issue two was a threshold issue, to the effect that the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division abandoned the operative notice of appeal and relied on the abandoned notice of Appeal.

EFCC Re-arraigns Lagos Assembly Speaker, Gets N1billion Bail

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has re-arraigned the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, and his personal assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi for their alleged involvement in laundering over N273million belonging to the Lagos State House of Assembly.

Both men were on Monday, re-arraigned at the Federal High Court, Lagos before Justice Ibrahim Buba.

The offence is said to be contrary to Sections 18(A) of the Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and punishable under Section 16(2)(B) of the same Act.

They both pleaded not guilty to an amended 54-count charge and have been granted bail in the sum of N1billion each.

The court also made a bail condition for two sureties each in the sum of N5million each.

The sureties are to swear to an affidavit of means, while the two accused persons must give an undertaking that they would always be present in court for their trial.

“They would not be remanded in prison custody if they are able to perfect the bail conditions within 48 hours. But if they fail, a bench warrant will be issued against them” the Judge ruled.

The duo had earlier been arraigned on March 1, 2012 on a 20-count charge.

The trial is however to commence afresh following the retirement of the previous judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke.

The fresh date for the trial is the 25th of September.

Court Convicts ‘My Pikin’ Syrup-makers, Winds Up Company

A Federal High Court in Lagos has convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment, two employees of Barewa Pharmaceutical Company Limited, Adeyemo Abiodun and Ebele Eromosele, over the production of a baby killer syrup, My Pikin.

The judge also ordered that the company be closed and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.

The company and its employees were charged on an amended six-count charge of the production of My Pikin after infants that used the drug started dying in 2008.

There was mild drama, midway into the judgment, as one of the convicts suddenly collapsed while the Judge read out his judgment.

Trial judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke, in his judgment, convicted the accused on two counts, while he acquitted them on four counts.

The Judge accordingly sentenced the accused to seven years imprisonment each, while he ordered the company to be compulsorily wound up and its assets forfeited to the state.

My Pikin, a paracetamol-based syrup, used for treating sore gums, was found to have been contaminated with diethylene glycol, used as an engine coolant.

The mixture was found to contain engine coolant and it caused the babies’ kidneys to fail, which led to their deaths.

Court Jails Iranian For Smuggling Arms Into Nigeria

Azim Aghajani, a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has been found guilty of smuggling weapons into Lagos and sentenced to five years in prison by a Federal High Court in the city.

A Nigerian, Ali Jega was also convicted alongside Azim Aghajani.

The Nigerian Customs Service in 2010 made a seizure of 13 containers loaded with rockets and grenades, shipped in from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The shipment including rockets and other explosives were hidden in containers of building materials.

Court documents revealed that the arms were to be re-exported to The Gambia.

The Judge who presided over the two-year trial,  Justice Okechukwu Okeke, found the Iranian guilty and sentenced him to prison for five years.

The men were said to have, without licence, been “in control of bombs and grenade categorised as prohibited firearms under Item 4 of Part 1 of the Schedule to the Firearms Act, Cap F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and contrary to Section 3 of the Constitution.”

They were also said to have been in control of rockets categorised as prohibited firearms without licence.

 

 

Court Upholds National Assembly’s Power On Party Nominations

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has upheld the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on how political parties should nominate candidates for elections.

The court was delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which was represented in court by its National Legal Adviser Dr Muiz Banire.

The ACN had sued the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC was represented by Mr Adindu Ugwuzor.

In its judgment, the court held that the exercise of the National Assembly’s regulatory powers as contained in Section 228 of the 1999 Constitution gave rise to the enactment of the Electoral Act.

Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) lays down the procedure for the conduct of primaries by political parties seeking to nominate candidates.

Presiding Justice Okechukwu Okeke refused to invalidate Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

The court added that all the sections/provisions of the Electoral Act apply to all political parties in Nigeria equally and without any discrimination.

ACN had sought a declaration that the provisions of Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) are inconsistent with the provisions of section 4 and 228 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Being inconsistent, it is therefore “ultra vires (beyond the powers of) the National Assembly, null and void to the extent of their inconsistency,” the party argued.

The party also prayed the court to declare the section unconstitutional and void for mandating the conduct of and the manner of conducting primary elections by political parties for elections into the offices of the President, Vice-President, Governor, National Assembly and State House of Assembly.

It sought a declaration that the procedure adopted by a political party for the conduct of primaries for nomination of its candidates in an election is outside the legislative domain of the National Assembly.

The party formulated four issues for determination, including whether the National Assembly has the power to legislate on the procedure for nomination of candidates by political parties, having regard to the supremacy of the Constitution and the clear enumeration of the lawmakers’ powers with respect to political parties.

In a supporting affidavit, the deponent, Aketu Eromosele, said: “I was informed by Alhaji Lai Mohamed, the National Publicity Secretary of the plaintiff while instructing our law firm on the 26th day of July, 2012 in our office…and I verily believe that the said Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) has affected the right of the plaintiff to determine its political fortunes in accordance with its principles contained in its Constitution and other relevant documents.

“As a matter of fact, the members of the plaintiffs party feel aggrieved that they cannot further their common goal of freely choosing their ambassadors.”

But INEC, in its counter affidavit, argued that the Section 87 applies not only to ACN, but all other political parties in Nigeria, without any exemption.

It said the Act did not put the plaintiff in any position of disadvantage and is not in any way prejudicial to it.

“Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 has not infringed on the right of the plaintiff at all but is intended to make it abide by democratic tenets and principles of equality and fairness,” INEC said.

Justice Okeke, in his verdict, held that the conduct of election into political offices is INEC’s exclusive duty.

“In doing so, there must be order,” the judge said, adding: “Section 87 is to ensure that there is a level-playing ground for all Nigerians. It is not targeted at the plaintiff only.

“There is no merit in this application and it is hereby dismissed. There shall be no order as to cost, the judge concluded”.

NJC Suspends Justice Talba For 12months Over Pension Scam Ruling

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has suspended Justice Abubakar Talba of the Federal High Court for a period of 12 months without pay.

Justice Talba was suspended from office sequel to the findings by the council that he did not exercise his discretion judicially and judiciously with regard to the sentences he passed on Mr John Yakubu Yusuf who was on trial for embezzling N30 billion police pension.

The Judge had in January, sentenced Mr Yusuf, a director in the Police Pension Office, to six years imprisonment or the option of N750, 000 fine for criminal conversion of money meant for pensioners.

The judicial council also issued ‘serious warnings’ to Justice Talba to desist from unreasonable exercise of judicial discretion in all matters brought before him.

On the various petitions written against Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court who is to retire from service on the 18th of May 2013, the NJC considered his response and decided to warn him seriously.

The council had set up a fact finding committee to investigate the allegation levelled against Justice Talba and several other justices.

The National Judicial Council also resolved that Justice Abubakar Talba of the Abuja High Court who allowed a former deputy director in the police pension office, Mr John Yusuf to pay N750.000 fine and walked away free after he was convicted for stealing N1.3 billion naira, has a case to answer.

Following its resolution the council has set up a committee to further investigate the judge and come up with a detailed report of what actually transpired.

The committee will also consider whether the judgment given by Justice Talba was appropriate in the circumstance, and according to existing laws.

The council could however not take any decision on 18 other petitions against judges because the responses of judges to the query issued against them came late.

The council will at its next meeting billed to hold at June 13th, 2013 consider the committee’s report on Justice Talba.

Trial Of Lagos Speaker’s Stalled As Prosecutor Withdraws

The trial of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Honourable Adeyemi  Ikuforiji and his personal assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi over allegations of money laundering has being stalled following the withdrawal of the Chief Prosecutor, Godwin Obla from the case.

The Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji

When the matter came up for continuation of trial at the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday, a senior counsel with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr Alli Yussuf  announced Mr Obla’s withdrawal in court.

Mr Yussuf told the presiding Judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke that though he was yet to see the letter written to that effect, he was compelled to appear in the case following the withdrawal of Mr Obla who had been handling the case since inception.

Mr Obla was said to have attributed his withdrawal to the 13 trial days in the month of April, starting from today Tuesday, fixed by the court for the hearing of the matter.

He said these dates would considerably constrain his ability to diligently prosecute the matter, as he had other legal proceedings before various courts and arbitral tribunals within and outside the country which conflict with the dates fixed by the court.

Mr Obla was also said to have advised the EFCC to retain the services of another counsel whose calendar can accommodate the dates fixed for the matter by the court.

Mr Yussuf however urged the court to adjourn the matter for another three weeks to enable him study the case file.

Counsel for the Lagos Speaker, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) opposed the request of the EFCC for adjournment.

The defence counsel pointed out that this was a case in which the accused person was begging for prosecution so as to clear his name while the prosecutor was running away from prosecuting. He therefore urged the court to either dismiss or strike out the charges against the accused persons.

The EFCC counsel swiftly opposed this application and further urged court for more time to enable him study the case file so as to properly prosecute.

Justice Okeke has enjoined the EFCC to engage the services of another prosecuting counsel to continue the case. He then adjourned the matter till the 24th of April.

Channels TV has however gathered that the trial judge is due for retirement in May and would not be able to conclude the case, thereby further stalling the trial.

PHCN Claims Property Forfeited By Cecilia Ibru

Five staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) on Wednesday urged the Appeal Court in Lagos to halt their ejection from a PHCN property forfeited to the federal government by former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru.

The workers, in a notice of appeal, faulted Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court in Lagos for refusing to vacate his earlier order granting leave to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to take over the property.

Mrs. Ibru forfeited N191 billion worth of assets to the federal government as part of the plea-bargain arrangement following her conviction over corrupt practices in the bank.

AMCON had on March 6, 2013 forcefully ejected the PHCN workers from the property, which is located at 5A George Street, Ikoyi Lagos.

The PHCN workers, through their lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), had urged Justice Okeke to vacate the order on the ground that it was obtained by AMCON through fraud and suppression of material fact.

Mr. Falana had contended that the said property allegedly acquired by Mrs. Ibru, was at all times, the property of PHCN and so, Mrs Ibru had no right to forfeit the property to the federal government.

The workers are: Afolabi Dada, Charles Amadi, Lawan Muhammad, Comfort Odili-Iwuafor and Anthony Abikoye.

But Justice Okeke refused to vacate the order, saying it had already been executed, and as such he could not undue a completed act.

Dissatisfied, Mr. Falana and the plaintiffs approached the Appeal Court where they stressed that Justice Okeke erred in law, because there were exhibits before him to show that the ejection order was obtained by fraud.

Claiming that there were three pending suits on the subject matter, Mr. Falana urged the appellate court to stay further execution of the order, and also restrain AMCON and Deputy Sheriff of the Federal High Court from demolishing the property.

Prior to the filing of the appeal, Mr. Falana had also filed a motion before the lower court seeking for leave to appeal against the ruling and stay of execution.

AMCON’s alleged fraud

Mr. Falana, while arguing the motion for vacation of the ejection order, had told Justice Okeke that AMCON acted fraudulently when it obtained a court order which granted it leave to seal up the plaintiffs’ premises.

He also argued that while the ownership of the said property was still the subject of a pending litigation before the court, involving AMCON, the respondent had gone behind closed doors to obtain an order to levy execution on the property.

He told the court that in 2010, when a forfeiture order was made by Justice Daniel Abutu, to relinquish the said property to AMCON, the applicant filed a similar suit, seeking to set aside that forfeiture order.

Mr. Falana argued that despite AMCON’s knowledge of the pending suit before the court, it still went ahead to obtain an order to seal up the premises.

He told the court that the act of the respondent was fraudulent and should be set aside.

AMCON’s lawyer, Felix Azu (SAN) while responding to Mr. Falana’s argument, stressed that when the order for forfeiture was made, the applicants neither appealed the decision nor applied for a stay of execution of the order.

Mr. Azu said that by their inaction, they had represented that they had no intention to challenge the order.

He said that although the applicants had filed a suit to set aside the order made by Justice Abutu, the respondent was privy to that suit as no appeal had been made against the positive order of the court granted them.

Court strikes out case against ‘My Pikin’ manufacturer

Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday struck out the name of the Managing Director of Barewa Pharmaceutical Company Limited, Gbadegesin Okunlola, and the manufacturer of My Pikin teething mixture after he was informed of his death.

58 year old, Okunlola, who was charged alongside his company and two staff members, with production and distribution of adulterated drugs by the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) according to his counsel, Folabi Kuti, died on October 28, 2012 as a result of the massive stroke he suffered on October 18.

His counsel, who filed an application stating this fact, also attached a death certificate from St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, as confirmation of his death.

NAFDAC’s lawyer, Aminu Halilu also informed the court of a “sworn declaration of the accused death, deposed to by one Judith Egbeadumah, which stated that her principal, Mr Osaro Eghobamien (SAN) was informed of the deceased death on October 27, by the deceased relatives.

She said that the deceased had died as a result of the massive stroke he suffered on October 18.”

She added that the corpse was currently lying in a private mortuary preparatory to its interment.

The prosecutor therefore prayed the court to strike out the deceased’s name from the charge in view of his demise.

He said: “We are convinced and satisfied that the first accused person is dead. In view of this, we cannot continue with the case today. We therefore urge the court to strike out his name from the suit.”

Consequently, Okeke struck out the deceased’s name from the suit. The prosecutor also sought for an adjournment to enable it work out with the defence counsel, who to stand in place of the deceased as representative of the company.

He also sought for an adjournment to enable him amend the charge to reflect current development in the case. Kuti, did not object to adjournment, but prayed the court to set definite trial date in the case.

He however, blamed the prosecution for the delay in the case which commenced about three years ago. He stated that the remaining accused persons were in a haste to ensure prompt conclusion of the case to enable them prove their innocence. Justice Okeke granted the prayer for adjournment and fixed further hearing for Dec.3.

The deceased, his company and two of its staff – Adeyemo Abiodun and Egbele Eromosele, were arraigned on March 8, 2009 on a six-count charge of alleged manufacturing and sale of an adulterated drug, ‘My Pikin’ teething mixture, which allegedly killed about 80 children in the country.

They had pleaded not guilty to the charge and were admitted to bail by the trial judge.

The prosecutor had said that the offences contravened Section 1 (a) of the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellaneous provisions) Act No. 25 of 1999 and punishable under section 3 of the same Act.

Court orders suspected illegal importers of arms to open defence

A Nigerian, Ali Jega and an Iranina, Azin Aghajani have been ordered by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to open their defence of the illegal importation of arms leveled against them by the Federal Government on Monday.

The accused were said to have been arrested in Lagos in July 2010 with a consignment of a container loaded with arms and ammunition, comprising bombs, grenades and rockets imported from Iran.

Justice Okechukwu Okeke, in a ruling, ordered them to open their defence after he struck out their application for a no-case submission.

Through their   lawyers ­— Chris Uche (SAN) and M. Yawuri — Aghajani, Jega had filed a no-case submission after the prosecution closed its case with nine witnesses.

They had insisted in their application that the evidence led by the prosecution failed to prove the alleged crime against them.

Okeke said though, the court could not at that stage give full details of the case, there was “copious” evidence, according to the testimonies of the third and fifth prosecution witnesses,  linking the accused with the alleged crime.

He said there were “grey areas” which the accused need to clarify.

Okeke said, “Out of the nine witnesses, I wish to be single out the third and fifth prosecution witnesses who gave copious evidence linking the accused with the goods and it is a matter to be concluded at the trial.

“The prosecution has made out its case and the court will not take the risk of going into the full details of the case until the close of the case.

“The no case submission hereby fails.”

The prosecution, represented in court on Monday by Maduako Livingstone, had insisted that with the testimonies of its nine witnesses, prima facie case had been proved against the accused.

The third prosecution witness referred to by the judge was one Mohammed Umar, who in his testimony, said he was “a brother and friend” to the second accused person, Jega.

He had said Jega was the one who introduced him to the first accused person, Aghazani, informing him of the consignment that was being expected from Iran.

The fifth prosecution witness, Kingsley Nduka, was the clearing agent paid to clear the consignment.

In the four counts preferred against the accused, the Federal Government alleged that they “without licence imported into Nigeria a consignment of 13-by-20 feet containers loaded with firearms and ammunition prohibited from importation under section 18 of Firearms (Special Provision) Act.”

They were also said to have “recklessly” made a false declaration that the container was loaded with glass, wool and pellets of stones on the original bill of lading.

The matter was adjourned till November 19.