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Court orders Kano govt to unseal rice factory shut over COVID-19

By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday ordered  the Kano State Government  to unseal a rice production factory – Tiamin Rice Limited – shut by the state for allegedly being too close to an isolation centre for COVID-19 patients.

The state had also claimed that the fume being emitted from the rice mill was harmful to the COVID-19 patients.

In a judgment on Monday, Justice Okon Abang, held that the closure of the factory, without a valid court order, violated the rights of the applicants and the exemption accorded food production companies by the government.

The judgment was in a fundamental rights enforcement suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/448/2020 filed by Tiamin Multi-Services Global Ltd, Tiamin Rice Limited and Alhaji Aliyu Ali Ibrahim.

Respondents in the suit were the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Commissioner of Police, Kano State; Government of Kano State and Nigeria

The applicants, who claimed that their factory was located at about 26 kilometre away from the COVID-19 isolation centre, argued that the closure was a violation of their rights to own property and to go in and out of such a property.

They stated that the rice factory  is one of the food production companies permitted by government to continue production for the purpose of providing food  for the people in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The applicants also claimed that their factory was creating job opportunities as well as alleviating the people’s hardship induced by the pandemic.

In the judgement on Monday, Justice Abang noted that the respondent did not respond to the case even though they were duly served and afforded sufficient time.

Abang held that the respondents were given ample opportunity to be heard, but failed to make appearance.

The judge noted that the plaintiff has previously been given an exemption by the government to produce more food during the lockdown to Nigerians.

He ordered the Kano State Government to unseal the applicants’ property and held that the sealing of the property, without proper court order,  constitutes a violation of the the applicants’ fundamental human rights.

Justice Abang restrain the Kano State Government from further interfering with the activities of the applicants.

The judge awarded N300million damages against the respondents and order  the Attorney General of Kano State to ensure that judgement is promptly complied with.

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