(NaturalNews) A Nigerian state judge has issued arrest warrants for three top Pfizer officials, saying that they failed to appear in court to face charges of illegally conducting drug trials that led to the deaths of 11 children.
Judge Shehu Atiku, sitting in the city of Kano, said that Nigerian Pfizer head Ngozi Edozien and senior company officials Lare Baale and Segun Donguro failed to appear in court in compliance with a Nov. 6 court order.
The state of Kano is seeking $2.6 billion from Pfizer, charging that the company illegally tested an experimental antibiotic, Trovan, on children in Kano during a meningitis outbreak in 1996. According to the government, the drug trials were carried out without the informed consent of the children's parents or the Nigerian government, and led to the deaths of 11 children. Dozens of other children were allegedly harmed by the drug.
Pfizer insists that the trial was legal, and that the drug saved people's lives.
In addition to the criminal and civil suits initiated by the state of Kano, the federal government has also filed suit and charges against the corporation. The Nigerian government seeks $7 billion in damages.
United States-based Pfizer said that it would fight the arrest warrants and seek to block their implementation.
This follows Pfizer's attempts in November to avoid federal prosecution by securing an injunction to prevent police from arraigning any company officials on federal charges.
"What Pfizer has done is what a former governor did to stop EFCC from prosecuting them," said government lawyer Babatunde Irukera. "They went to Lagos state, where there is no action pending, to procure an exparte order to stop the police from taking steps to serve criminal summons on its officials."
That federal case has been adjourned until January 28, to give prosecutors time to convince the court in Lagos to withdraw the injunction and allow Pfizer officials to be arrested.