October 29, 2008 - A Nigerian court adjourned on Wednesday, 10/29/2008 a 5.3 trillion naira ($45 billion) lawsuit brought by the government against three tobacco firms (British American Tobacco BAT.L, Philip Morris International (PMI) and Nigerian firm International Tobacco Ltd.) until January 19, 2008 so the prosecution can serve court papers on one of the defendants.
The Nigerian government has accused the firms of targeting young smokers by promoting the sale of individual cigarettes and has asked the court to ban cigarette sales to under-18s and curb advertising aimed at young people. It is seeking 4.8 trillion naira as preventive damages for future expenses for cigarette-related diseases, 136 billion naira as compensation to sick youths, 250 billion naira in restitution and 130 billion naira as punitive damages.
PMI had rejected court papers sent on three occasions by courier. Efforts to publish the summons in a Swiss newspaper had also failed. Next they'll try to serve PMI through diplomatic channels through the Swiss Embassy in Nigeria.
It is the second time that the court has had to adjourn the case so that lawyers could serve PMI.
The case is inspired by U.S. lawsuits in the 1990s that led to multibillion dollar settlements (1998 Master Settlement Agreement) by the tobacco industry. But health campaigners say the Nigerian government does not spend anywhere near the huge amounts it says in the lawsuit on delivering healthcare.
Nigeria adjourns $45 bln tobacco lawsuit to January by Camillus Eboh, Reuters, 10/29/2008.
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