27th May, 2010
An Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Kolawole has rejected the motion of Garba Maisikeli led members of Trovan Victims Forum, TVF, seeking an immediate stop to the ongoing DNA collection process being conducted to determine genuine claimants in the $75 million settlement agreement reached between the Kano State government and Pfizer over the 1996 Trial of antibiotic drug, Trovan in the ancient city.
The Trovan Victims Forum, which claimed to represent 192 participants in the Trovan clinical trial, had approached the court last Monday to obtain an injunction to stop the DNA test. The Maisikeli-led body had accused Pfizer in the suit filed at the Abuja High Court questioning the DNA test process.
But the High Court had in a ruling last Wednesday adjourned consideration of the motion until June 29, 2010.
In its reaction to the ruling, Pfizer said the rejection of the demand of TVF for an immediate injunction by the High Court will allow the ongoing collection of DNA samples to continue and allow for quick payments for claimants certified to be genuine out of the over 500 claims it has received so far.
â€œThe fact that the Board of Trustees of the Healthcare/Meningitis Trust Fund has received approximately 550 claims arising from a study that had 200 participants validates the importance of all the procedures, including DNA collection, incorporated in the settlement agreement to ensure that the funds reach only those for whom they are intended,â€ the drug manufacturing giant said in a press release by its spokesperson, Chris Loder, yesterday.
Pfizer also reaffirmed that participation in the claims verification process is voluntary and individuals may choose not to participate in it for any reason while emphasizing that the final decision on beneficiaries from the $35 million set aside for compensation in the $75 million total settlement agreement will be made by the Justice Wali-led Board set up to manage the fund.
The board consists of members nominated by the Kano State government and Pfizer.
â€œUnder the settlement agreement, the board – not Pfizer or the Kano State government – will make the final determinations on eligibility of the claimants and, if applicable, the level of financial support they will receive.â€
Meanwhile, Mens Sana, a non government organization that has been monitoring the ongoing process of claims verification had alleged that there is an attempt to disrupt the process by those it described as â€œsome carpet-baggersâ€.
Hajiya Muslima Kadi, the national coordinator of the NGO in a press release specifically accused the chairman of the Trovan Victims Forum, Alhaji Maisikeli of attempting to disrupt the DNA testing process for his selfish purpose.
â€œOf course, this would not be the first time Alhaji Maisikeliâ€™s Trovan Victims Forum would try to disrupt the compensation process probably for the fear that the DNA test would expose his self-compiled list of claimants as fake. Therefore, he has resorted to questioning the integrity of the DNA experts and even that of the members of the Board of Trustees,â€ the NGO said in the press release made available to PM NEWS.
It added that the plot to derail the DNA test was a slap on the face of the Kano State government which entered into the agreement with Pfizer and â€œalso an insult on the respected Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero who has gone on record as endorsing the use of DNA to determine rightful claimants.â€
Hajia Kadi who accused Maisikeliâ€™s of capitalizing on the the illiteracy of many of the participants to cause confusion however urged the Board of Trustees and law enforcement agencies and the Kano State government to ensure that the compensation process goes as expected and is concluded expeditiously and successfully.
The Kano State government filed criminal and civil suits against Pfizer in 2007 over claims that the company carried out an illegal trial of a meningitis drug, Trovan Floxacin, on 200 children in 1996 during a triple outbreak of epidemic of meningitis, measles and cholera in which over 12,000 people died.
Pfizer, however, denied this insisting that the trial was conducted with the consent of the Nigerian government, conformed to ethical guidelines and lives of many patients were saved by the drug. The $75 million out of court settlement was reached between both parties last year.
â€”Oluokun Ayorinde/ Abuja