Importation of sugar unfortified with Vitamin A: Court of Appeal dismisses suit filed against SON

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja recently dismissed the appeal filed by Sunshine Chemical Development Company Limited against the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) claiming that SON had acted in bad faith in rejecting the company’s application to import sugar unfortified with Vitamin A. Dissatisfied with the ruling of Justice B. F. M. Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja that SON had merely acted pursuant to the lawful directives of its supervising Ministry and in accordance with the Vitamin-A Food Fortification Regulations of 2005, in denying the application of the said to import sugar unfortified with Vitamin A into the country. Sunshine Chemical Development Company Limited had gone to the Court of Appeal seeking to overturn the judgment.

The appellate court, in a decision by a 3-man panel of justices led by Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewil, held that SON acted neither in bad faith nor outside the scope and limits of its powers under the enabling statute, regulations and directives from its supervisory Ministry. The Court of Appeal also held that the company’s cause of action was undoubtedly and irredeemably statute barred by the virtue and operations of the provisions of Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act, LFN 2004. The case was dismissed for being statute barred.

The spokesperson of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Foluso Bolaji, explained that” by virtue of the provisions of the Vitamin A Food Fortification Regulations of 2005, importation of sugar not fortified with Vitamin A without the leave of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment is prohibited”, she affirmed. According to Bolaji, in 2005, Sunshine Chemical Development Company Limited applied for an approval from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria for the importation of 7,500 metric tonnes of sugar unfortified with Vitamin A. The company was duly informed of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s policy on sugar importation and advised that by the intervention of the Presidential Technical Committee on Sugar Importation, three companies were permitted to coordinate the importation of sugar unfortified with Vitamin A for manufacturing purposes with the condition that the final products will be fortified with Vitamin A.

She also explained that the request from the company was forwarded to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, who confirmed the position of government and advised the company to re-route its request through any of the three companies approved by the Federal Government to coordinate such importation. Dissatisfied with the position, Sunshine Chemical Development Company Limited instituted a case against SON.

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