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New Cement Grade: Court Turns Down Lafarge's Application to Stop SON

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA, June 10, (THEWILL) - The bid by Lafarge Cement WAPCO to stop the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) from enforcing the newly-introduced cement grade, was Tuesday, turned down by a Federal High Court.

Presiding Judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, who turned down the request, also ruled that making such a restraining order would prejudice its order compelling the defendants to appear in court to show cause why they should not be restrained from enforcing the new cement grade.

Listed as defendants in the suit according to a filing seen by THEWILL, are the SON and the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Segun Aganga.

SON's lawyer, Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN) and Aganga's counsel, Mrs. S.A Lawal, had opposed Lafarge's application for an order asking parties to maintain the status quo.

They argued that the court could not make such order when its jurisdiction to entertain the suit was being challenged.

While Lawal asked for an adjournment to file his processes, Tarfa argued that the court should first decide on the notice of preliminary objection which he had filed challenging the jurisdiction of the court.

'We have demonstrated in our counter-affidavit why it is inappropriate to grant the reliefs being sought,' Tarfa said.

Lafarge Cement, had through its counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), dragged the two defendants to court, challenging their power to force it to manufacture cement to conform with the newly-introduced grade. The plaintiff argued that due process was not followed in introducing the new standard and that the license it obtained for the manufacturing of the former All Purpose 32.5 cement was still valid up till August 2016.

It would be recalled that Justice Mohammed had on June 4 rejected an ex parte application by Lafarge praying for a similar order restraining SON and Aganga from imposing the new standard on it or prosecuting its principal members of staff for non-compliance.

After rejecting the ex parte application, the court then ordered that the processes be served on SON and the Aganga for them to appear in court Tuesday to show cause why the prayers of the plaintiff should not be granted.

But the plaintiff's lawyer, Osipitan, at the mention of the matter Tuesday urged the court to make a preservative order directing parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing of the substantive suit. Osipitan said it was only on Monday that he received SON's counter-affidavit showing cause, its memorandum of conditional appearance, notice of preliminary objection and counter-affidavit, and as such he needed time to respond to them.

He had urged the court to grant a preservative order to allay the fear of his client about 'the desperation of the defendants' to shut down its factory, prosecute its principal members of staff for non-compliance and continue publications aimed at de-marketing its products.

'Within the week they have embarked on eight publications aimed at de-marketing our products. They are now saying that our product, the 32.5 cement is only good for plastering; they are saying if you use it to build, it will collapse. This is aimed at de-marketing our products.

'They also have the power to lock down our factory for non-compliance. If we are not complying they have the power under Section 16 of their enabling law to prosecute members of our principal staff.

'We don't want all these to happen when we are in court because that is what we are in court to challenge,' Osipitan said. After hearing the submissions, Justice Mohammed rejected the application for order to maintain status quo and adjourned further proceedings in the case till June 24 .