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Nigeria Launches Seven Billion Dollar Case Against Pfizer

The Nigerian government took a seven billion dollar (5.2 billion euro) negligence suit against the world's biggest pharmaceutical company Pfizer to court Tuesday, as the US giant demanded the charges be dismissed.

But the government's case suffered an early setback when the court rejected a request to allow it to submit "additional facts", before presiding judge Babs Kwewumi adjourned the trial to July 20.

Government lawyer Babatunde Irukera had asked to be allowed to introduce additional documents to the court, which would make it impossible for Pfizer to invoke the statute of limitations, as the alleged offences date from 1996.

The government is seeking damages after nearly 200 children either died or suffered deformities following trials for a new drug the US multinational carried out in the mid-1990s.

Nigeria has based its case on claims that Pfizer had no authorisation or parental consent to carry out the trial in Africa's most populous country. Pfizer insists it had full approval for the tests.

The drugs trial took place in the northern province of Kano in 1996, but the government only brought the case on June 4.

After the hearing, Irukera told journalists the additional facts were linked to what he said was an undertaking by Pfizer during separate earlier legal proceedings in the United States.

"In exchange for having those cases dismissed before the US court, Pfizer agreed it would not raise any type of defence that could ... suggest this action occurred 11 years ago and as a result it is statute barred," he said.

The government feared that Pfizer would renege on this undertaking, he said.

Lawyers told AFP that there were grounds in Nigerian law for arguing that the case filed 11 years later by the Nigerian government should have been brought within a maximum of six years from the alleged facts.

The drug trial was carri
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