Cement Grade Dispute: Court Says SON, Ministry Of Industry Have Case To Answer

By Funmi Emmanuel, Abuja.
A Federal High Court in Abuja has said that the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI) should explain the rationale behind the newly introduced cement grade, with which they now want cement manufacturers to comply.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling on Tuesday, refused the applications by SON and the ministry for an order setting aside an earlier order by the court, directing them to showcase why they should not be restrained from enforcing the new cement grade, as prayed in an ex-parte application by a cement manufacturing company, Lafarge Cement WAPCO.
By the ruling, the defendants are still required to convince the court on why they should not be restrained from enforcing the new policy on cement grade.
Lafarge had, upon the introduction of the new grade, sued SON and MITI, challenging the propriety of the policy.
Suspecting that the defendants could penalize it for not meeting the new standard before the determination of its suit, Lafarde applied ex-parte for an order restraining the defendants from enforcing the new policy.
The court declined to grant the order sought ex-parte, but ordered the defendants to appear and showcase why the restraining order sought ex-parte by Lafarge should not be granted.
Yesterday, proceedings were stalled in view of the application by plaintiff’s lawyer, Professor Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) for time to respond to the fresh processes filed by the defendants, but served on him the previous day.
The defense councils of SON and MITI, Rickey Tarfa (SAN) and Mrs U. E. Hassan Baba frowned at the disposition of the plaintiff, accusing it of being reluctant to proceed with the case.
They prayed the court to set aside the order directing their clients to show cause why the restraining order sought by the plaintiff should not be granted.
Ruling, Justice Mohammed held that it was impossible for the court to proceed with the case without the plaintiff afforded time to respond to the processes just served on it by the defendants.
The judge rejected the defendants’ application to set aside the order for them to show cause. He consequently adjourned to July 7 for hearing.
Lafarge is contending in the substantive suit, that the defendant did not comply with due procedure in introducing the new cement standard, and that the license it obtained for the manufacturing of the grade the defendants seeks to phase out – All Purpose 32.5 cement – was still valid up till August 2016.
It also argued that the defendants lacked the powers to force it to manufacture according to the new standard, because due process was not followed in introducing it.
 Lafarge contended that it was wrong for the defendants to compel it to adopt the new standard when the license it was granted for the manufacture of its current grade of cement – All Purpose 32.5 cement – will expire by August 2016.