For failing to perform its statutory obligations to Nigerians on the dangerous chemical contents of Fanta and Sprite, a Lagos High Court has ordered the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to pay a fine of N2 million.
The court also dismissed an application filed by the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc, makers of Fanta and Sprite to stay execution of its earlier judgement on the matter.
The trial judge, Justice, Adedayo Oyebanji, said that NAFDAC did not take appropriate measures before approving such dangerous soft drinks like Fanta and Sprite which is glaringly poisonous to health when taken with Vitamin C.
He therefore ordered the agency to pay the money into an interest yielding account in the name of the court’s Chief Registrar, pending the hearing and the determination of the appeal filed by NAFDAC.
Justice Oyebanji had observed that contrary to the argument of NBC that its business interest would be adversely affected if the order is not stayed, it is important to consider the preservation of human life, adding that “the business interest of Nigeria Bottling Company cannot, in my respected view take precedent over public health.
“It is beyond argument that if the application for stay is granted and human health is consequently adversely affected; it is most unlikely that there can indeed be a return to status quo. It is imperative to add the effect of the order sought to be stayed is the preservation of human life, the business interest of NBC cannot in my respected view take precedent over public health.
“The importance of public health is clearly demonstrated and underscored by the constitutional provision in Section 45 thereof. For the reasons herein adumbrated, it seems to me it’s manifest that Nigeria Bottling Company has failed to disclose any special circumstances which would warrant the grant of this application.
“Accordingly, Nigeria Bottling Company’s application for stay of execution fails and it is hereby dismissed,” Justice Oyebanji held.
The ruling was sequel to an application filed before the court by a Lagos lawyer, T.A. Busari (SAN) on behalf of NBC, urging the court to stay the execution of its judgement.
The lawyer premised it on the ground that, the order made by the court would adversely affect the operation of the company.
In a related development, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) filed an application for stay of execution of the judgement of the court on behalf NAFDAC.
He contended that NAFDAC had appealed against the judgement at the Court of Appeal and the appeal raises jurisdictional issues which affect the competence of the suit and the validity of the judgement.
However, Barr. Abiodun Onidare, counsel to the claimants, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holding, argued that the interest of the public was what mattered and not the business policy and reputation of the NBC.
Onidare argued that the application for stay must not stand because the defendant has failed to put before the court, materials which will necessitate the grant of same.
In a judgement delivered by Justice Adedayo Oyebanji on February 15, 2017, the court ordered NAFDAC to forthwith mandate NBC to include on all bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks manufactured by the company a written warning that the content of the said bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same becomes poisonous if taken with Vitamin C.
The court also declared that NAFDAC has failed Nigerians by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption, products in which in the United Kingdom, failed sample test for human consumption and which becomes poisonous in the presence of Ascorbic Acid ordinarily known as Vitamin C, which can be freely taken by the unsuspecting public with the Fanta and Sprite