A Federal High Court Lagos, on Wednesday, vacated a subpoena on a journalist with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) following an application by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
The court vacated the subpoena in the trial of a defendant Chukwunonye Madubuike, following an application by NAFDAC prosecutor, Mr Washington Adume.
The defendant is charged with dealing in unwholesome products.
He was re-arraigned on March 14, 2019, before Justice Maureen Onyetenu, on a one-count of selling Emzolyn with codeine cough syrup.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail.
Recall that in 2018, a ban was placed on the production and importation of cough syrup containing codeine after a BBC undercover investigation.
The BBC investigation “sweet sweet codeine” by a reporter, Mr Adejuwon Soyinka, showed the syrup was sold in the black market to be used by young Nigerians to “get high”.
A joint probe by the BBC’s investigation unit, Africa Eye, and BBC Pidgin prompted the ban.
Consequently, NAFDAC arraigned the defendant in 2018 before Justice Babs Kuewumi, who had been transferred to the Ado-Ekiti division of the court .
The defendant had pleaded not guilty before both Justice Kuewumi and Oneyetenu.
In 2019, Justice Onyetenu granted issuance of a subpoena to compel the BBC journalist to come and testify in court.
Meanwhile, lawyers to the BBC reporter had filed a motion, seeking to dismiss the “subpoena duces tecum ad testificandum” ( commanding or ordering a person to appear and bring specified documents or records and to give testimony), issued on Soyinka.
In the said motion, they had averred that the reporter was entitled to freedom of expression and also had the right not to disclose sources of information used in reports.
Onyetenu was again transferred out of the Lagos jurisdiction and the defendant was re-arraigned before a new judge, Justice Akintayo Aluko.
When the case was called on Wednesday, the prosecutor, urged the court to vacate the subpoena issued by the previous judge on the reporter.
Adume argued that when the case was charged to court, the reporter was invited to come and testify but he refused and proved hostile, inspite of the issuance of a subpoena.
He urged the court to vacate the said subpoena so as to make progress in the trial.
The court, consequently, granted the application and vacated the subpoena.
He adjourned the case until July 13 for continuation of trial.
In the charge, the defendant was alleged to have committed the offence on April 24, 2018.
He was alleged to have sold Emzolyn with codeine cough syrup at Sheraton Hotel in Akiti Avenue Lagos, a place not licensed or registered by the appropriate authority.
The prosecution said that the offence contravened the provisions of sections 2(a) of the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, Cap C34, Laws of the Federation, 2004. (NAN)