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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Judge’s transfer stalls $21bn tobacco suit

THE recent transfer of judges of Lagos High Court, on Monday, stalled further hearing in a $21bn suit by Lagos State Government and a civil society group, the Environmental Rights Action, against British American Tobacco and five other tobacco firms.
When the matter came up before Justice Bukola Adebiyi, she informed lawyers to the parties that she had been transferred from Lagos to Ikeja Division of the court.
She also told the lawyers that further applications on the case should wait till April 19.
The claimants had alleged that the tobacco firms had constituted themselves into a nuisance and a danger to the lives of the people and residents of Lagos.
The claimants are seeking extensive reliefs that intend to regulate tobacco smoking, especially as it affects youths and under-age smokers.
They also sought special, general, punitive and anticipatory damages in the sum of $21,617,605, 885.17 from the defendants.
They are further asking for an order of mandatory injunction compelling the tobacco firms and their agents to cease the marketing, promotion, distribution and sale of tobacco-related products to minors or under-age persons.
They also sought an order of mandatory injunction restraining the defendants from representing or portraying to minors or persons under the age of 18, any alluring and misleading image regarding tobacco-related products whether by direct depictions, pictorials, advertorials, images, words, messages, sponsorships, branding or through overt or covert and/or subliminal means.
The court was also asked to compel the tobacco firms to publicly disclose, disseminate, and publish all research previously conducted directly or indirectly by themselves and their respective agents that relates to the issue of smoking and health.
The claimants argued that tobacco smoking had severe health implications, including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary complications, stressing that the defendants had recently admitted these facts.
But the defendants had in their statement of defence claimed that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.
They also insisted that the suit was an abuse of court process and should be dismissed.