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Kano rice factory still sealed after court order

From Yusuf Alli, Abuja

Despite a Federal High Court order, Kano State Government and the Police are yet to unseal the premises of Tiamin Rice Limited

The company is likely to file an application to press contempt of the court against the government and the police.

The Kano State Ministry of Environment on April 20 closed the rice factory because of alleged “air pollution that aggravates coronavirus patients.”

As at the time of the closure, the mill was producing 320 metric tonnes of rice daily with 223 workers and 100 casual employees on its payroll.

Although the management of the rice mill faulted the state government’s claims, the battle shifted to the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Justice Okong Abang of the federal court, sitting in Abuja, on May 4, ordered the unsealing of the factory

But as at Thursday, the rice mill was still locked up without compliance with order.

An official of the rice mill said: “We have served the court papers on the Police (Kano State Command), but as I speak with you, our factory is still under lock and key.

”The company will have no choice than to return to the court to file an application for contempt.

“With the glaring disobedience of the court order the company will have no other option than to serve them with Form 48 which is about the contempt of the court.

“The respondents including the Kano State Attorney-General, the police commissioner in Kano among others will be liable to be committed to prison for violating court order.”

Justice Abang had threatened to jail the State Police Commissioner and the Kano State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice should  they refuse to comply with the court’s order.

He said if they disobeyed his judgment, they will be “guilty of contempt of court and will be committed to prison.”

The threat of the judge followed the refusal of the Attorney-General and the police boss to appear before him to give reasons why they sealed up the rice company and stopped production without a lawful court order.

The Tiamin Rice Mill, Tiamin Multi-services Global Limited and Alhaji Aliyu Ali Ibrahim had jointly dragged the Inspector General of Police, Kano State Commissioner of Police, Kano State government and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) seeking the enforcement of their fundamental rights.

They had complained of unlawful closure of their rice mill without any court order and prayed Justice Abang to order them out of the company to enable them resume production.

Justice Abang ordered the four respondents to appear before him on April 27 to defend their actions, none of them however obeyed the court order.

They were also not represented by lawyers despite being served hearing notices and newspaper publications to that effect.

While granting the prayers of the three applicants, the judge declared them as “lawful owners and occupiers of their property in Kano and are entitled to own property and enjoy or occupation, possession, and use of same.”

He also ordered that “the sealing off of the rice processing mill and denial of lawful access without any order of competent court of law backing up the sealing off constituted a violation of the owners’ fundamental rights under Sections 33, 34, 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution and is therefore illegal and unconstitutional.”

He voided the action of Kano State in sealing off the rice company and stopping of production without any notice or fair hearing, declaring it as an unlawful act.

The judge ordered the Inspector General of Police, the Kano State Police Command, their agents and privies to immediately take possession of the rice mill company from the state government and grant access to the rightful owners for the purpose of continuing their lawful business.

He restrained the four respondents and their servants “from continuing their unlawful acts of sealing off the rice company”, and ordered the Inspector General of Police and the NSCDC to unconditionally unseal the factory.

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