In a landmark judgement, 16 years after the federal government officially banned the use of the HIV vaccines discovered by Dr. Jeremiah Abalaka, a Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi, Benue State, has declared the ban illegal and inconsequential. In a 32-page judgement delivered by Hon. Justice Binta Nyako, the Court held that given the dreaded nature of HIV/AIDS, it is incumbent on government to encourage health experts with scientific claims to the discovery of vaccines or cure, as opposed to discouraging them.
The Court argued that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) as the 3rd defendant though is vested with the responsibility of registering drugs and vaccines and has the powers to ban such, lacked the facility to test Abalaka’s HIV vaccine and as such failed to provide a convincing order to warrant the ban of the said vaccine. It was observed that the support recently given to health experts by the federal government in the fight against Ebola ought to follow suit with HIV/AIDS considering the impact the virus has on its victims.
Abalaka, alongside his Hospital, Medicrest Specialist Hospital Limited, Gwagwalada, had dragged the federal government to Court seeking a declaration that the July 20, 2000 ban or suspension of the use of HIV vaccine he discovered was illegal, null and void because it violates his Patent No. RP13567 dated July 22, 1999.
The President, Attorney-General of the Federation and National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control were defendants in the case.
Abalaka told the Court that he took blood from an infected person, treated it and re-inject it back into the person. The surgeon had also informed the Court that he had treated infected persons with their consent and quite a few have reverted to negative. He said even though he had informed the agencies in the Ministry of Health of his major breakthrough and sought their collaboration, they vehemently opposed his discovery without concrete verification.
In the judgement, the Court said, “the government lined up to expectation recently during the Ebola outbreak. Everything and everyone that could help contribute to the battle was brought on deck and Nigeria was the pride of the world and the people were proud of the government. HIV/AIDS is related to Ebola as it is equally a death penalty on its victims.
“This should call for encouragement and not dampening of the spirit of persons who have made efforts to provide remedy. They need to be encouraged until and unless adverse side effects are detected after all what is happening now is palliative treatment. It is a different kettle of fish if the government cannot afford the research but not to kill it even without giving it a chance,” the court held.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Nyako maintained that the government also failed to table before the court specific “procedures for discovery of a drug/vaccine
except the history of small pox and polio.” The judge went further to stress that “the ban of Dr. Abalaka’s vaccine was done arbitrarily and thus is illegal, null and void. However, since the vaccine is a drug, he can only administer it to patients that have given their consent for him to administer same on them.
“Since the government is not doing anything to help them (patients), then I think it is only proper for the persons so infected to have a right to decide for themselves whether to use the plantiff’s vaccine or not. Consequent upon this, I find that the ban of the use of the plantiff’s vaccine is illegal, null and void but its use must be
at the discretion of the patient,” the court concluded.
But speaking against the backdrop of the judgement, Abalaka told journalists in Abuja that the judgement brings to an end several humiliation he has gone through the last sixteen years, including the international conspiracy that teamed up with some Nigerian government officials at the time to illegally ban the vaccine.
Abalaka accused the government then, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, of deliberate efforts to stop his vaccine in line with the conspiracy by international
bodies who were reaping much from donors’ agencies.
He explained that “ the judicial pronouncements by the court on my HIV vaccines have opened one more opportunity for our government to make the necessary amends after 16 years of monumental, unpatriotic, unscientific, arbitrary and
now, illegal mishandling” of the HIV vaccine.
According to him, his new year gift to Nigeria will be his “willingness to work with the various and interested governments under a negotiated agreement whereby I will divulge my HIV vaccines recipe to their chosen and acceptable representatives of relevant professionals for whom I will organise a workshop with practical sessions on the production, storage and administration of the vaccines.”
The ban for Abalaka’s HIV Vaccine was first issued on 20th July, 2000 by the then Minister of Health, Prof. Tim Menakaya, under former President Obasanjo’s administration. Though, it is not certain whether the end to the case is in sight, the judgement is another leap for claimants to the discovery of vaccines and cure for various health problems to challenge government obstruction through arbitrary regulations.
There were no indications that government or NAFDAC in particular will appeal the judgement.