Lawyer George William Alenyo has sued Professor Patrick Ogwang the inventor of Covid-19 treatment supplementary drug known as Covidex. He is seeking orders that Ogwang is not the lawful proprietor of Covidex and should therefore remit monies collected from selling the supplement to the consolidated fund.
Alenyo is joined in the suit by Christian Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Tourism which seeks to fight criminality, corruption and to promote access to companies’ data worldwide so as to enable people to know who they are working with or working for.
They have sued Ogwang alongside twelve statutory bodies before the High Court Civil Division in Kampala for alleged failure to perform their statutory duties such as failure to do due diligence to establish the true ownership of Covidex drug, failure to collect tax and remit it to government coffers, failure to obtain environmental impact assessment of the impact of the ongoing extraction or exploitation of millions of the tree species expected to be used to make millions of vials of Covidex, among others.
Those being sued together with Professor Ogwang are: National Drug Authority-NDA, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, National Environmental Authority, National Forestry Authority, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda Registration and Services Bureau, Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, Jena Herbals Uganda Limited, Uganda Revenue Authority, Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute, Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Attorney General.
The petitioners fault the Attorney General for representative action for the acts and omissions of government officials, public officials and civil servants in various offices for failing to ensure that Covidex funds and revenue are placed in the consolidated fund.
The Covidex drug hit the market about a month ago with claims that it heals the novel coronavirus. It was later approved by the NDA last week as supportive treatment in management of viral infections and since then the prices for each 20 milliliter bottle ranges between 6,000 and 100,000 Shillings depending on where you buy it due to increased demand.
But according to the evidence before court, the petitioners argue that in 1986, the ruling government came to power and launched a ten-point program to lead the people of Uganda and number six was provided for creating a vibrant health sector.
The evidence submitted adds that from 1986 to 2006, Uganda was a non-party state and all the National Resistance Movement programmes in Uganda were funded from the consolidated fund.
It adds that in 1989, the government and the Republic of Cuba under the late Fidel Castro signed a Solidarity Agreement to benefit The People of Uganda and established Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda.
“In 2001, the government of Uganda with a World Bank facilitation established the Pharma Bio Technology and Traditional Management Centre one of the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centre of Excellence, promoting herbal and natural products in Africa”, the suit continues.
It also indicates that in June 2021 Ogwang, a Public Servant who draws his salary from the consolidated fund at MUST and the Pharma Bio Centre applied for his personal name and obtained clearance from the NDA to sell and personally collect revenue from a drug called Covidex, developed at the government of Uganda facilities and laboratories and with staff of MUST and Pharma Bio Centre.
“The plaintiffs aver that actions of the 1st defendant (Ogwang) to attempt to own another’s (GoU’s) patent on Covidex in trust for The People of Uganda, is unlawful and the 1st defendant ought to be condemned to general damages and a permanent injunction to be issued against him to claim Covidex patent,” reads the petitioners’ document in part.
According to the petitioners through their lawyers of Katongole and Company Advocates, the government departments especially the Auditor General’s department failed to audit government funding to Covidex and other viral research, and also failed to institute an accounting system to collect and receive Covidex revenue.
The suit accuses “the Attorney General for abdicating its role to ensure a constitutionally enacted legal framework for government’s share in Covidex proceeds,” and “the Public Service Commission in failing to regulate Civil Servants abusing their offices, government protocols and facilities for their personal benefit.”
The petitioners now want a declaration that the Covidex drug is a proprietary patent for the government of Uganda, having been developed on government funds, premises, laboratories and by government public servants paid salaries from the consolidated fund.
They also want court to order the Uganda Revenue Authority to revert all tax issues related to Covidex drugs to the government of Uganda under the Public Finance Act and close all taxation and revenue accounts in the names of Ogwang and his company Jena Herbals Uganda Limited.
All the 13 respondents have already been summoned by the Civil Division Registrar Jamson Karemani to file their defense within 15 days.
He has also allocated the file to the head of Civil Division Justice Musa Ssekaana who is yet to fix it for hearing.