A federal High Court in Abuja has struck out a suit filed by the Heart of the Mother Foundation (HOMEF).The suit was on the issuance of permit to Mosanto for the commercialisation of Genetically Modified Crops (GMO) in the country.The judge, in his ruling, said although the plaintiffs have a cause of action in the matter, the court’s hands were tied due to one of the objections raised by the defendants.
The objection was that the suit was brought a year after the permits had been issued. He said: “The case was struck out, not for lack of merit or lack cause of action, (the court did establish a cause of action), but because of technicalities.”According to the judge, it was a contravention of the provisions of the Public Officers Act, which states that any action instituted against a public officer as regards his/her discharge of duties, must be instituted within three months, after the said breach had occurred.
Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, expressed concern about Nigeria’s present regulatory architecture, which, he said couldn’t ensure food and environmental safety.
Also reacting, a lawyer and chair of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, lamented the survival of millions of small-scale farmers, whose livelihoods are threatened by the corporate takeover of food systems in the guise of agricultural biotechnology.
HOMEF, in a statement expressed displeasure that the ruling was a fall back on efforts to preserve the country’s food system from being overturned by the agricultural biotech industry.
The registered Trustees HOMEF and sixteen other civil society organisations had in September 2017, filed the lawsuit against the Nigerian Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) for granting the permit.Also joined in the suit were the Minister of Environment, Monsanto Agricultural Nigeria Limited, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Minister of Agriculture, the Attorney General of the Federation and National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
In the summons, the plaintiffs said the first defendant did not comply with the provisions of NABDA Act, in granting the permits to the third and fourth defendants.The CSOs asserted that the procedure and issuance of the permits flouted the fundamental human rights of the people, as enshrined in section 33, 34, 36 and 39 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended) in 2011.