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New Cement Grade: SON, Ministry Must Explain Rationale, Court Insists

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SAN FRANCISCO, June 24, (THEWILL) - As the controversies over the introduction of a new cement grade in the country continue, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja Tuesday said the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI) must explain the rationale of  the newly-introduced cement grade, which cement manufacturers in the country are expected to comply with.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the order in a ruling as he threw out an application by SON and the Ministry for an order to set aside an earlier order by the court, directing them to show cause why they should not be restrained from enforcing the new cement grade, as prayed in an ex-parte application by Lafarge Cement WAPCO.

With Justice Mohammed's ruling,  SON and the Ministry  are still required to convince the court on why they should not be restrained from enforcing the new policy on cement grade.

THEWILL recalls that Lafarge had, upon the introduction of the new grade, sued SON and the Ministry, challenging the propriety of the policy.

And suspecting that SON and the Ministry could penalise 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 however declined to grant the order sought ex-parte, but ordered the defendants to appear and show cause why the restraining order sought by Lafarge should not be granted.

The proceedings were stalled on Tuesday 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.

Counsel  to 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 therefore 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.

In his 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.

He  therefore rejected the defendants' application to set aside the order for them to show cause and  adjourned to July 7 for hearing the suit.

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.

The French cement manufacturing company 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 maintained that it was wrong for SON and the Ministry 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.