Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The inventor of Covid-19 supplementary drug Covidex, Prof Patrick Ogwang has asked High Court to dismiss the case filed by lawyer George William Alenyo seeking orders that he is not the lawful proprietor of the drug and therefore should remit money collected from the sales to the consolidated fund.
Prof Ogwang together with his company Jena Herbals Uganda Limited which produces Covidex drug through their lawyers of Omongole and Company Advocates argue in their written response filed before Kampala High Court that the case against them is incompetent, political, abuse of court process, and has no legal basis and therefore, it should be dismissed with costs.
Early this month, Alenyo together with the Christian Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Tourism sued Ogwang together with his company and 12 others for alleged failure to perform their statutory duties.
The others are National Drug Authority-NDA, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, National Environmental Authority, National Forestry Authority, Mbarara University of Science and Technology-MUST, 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.
Alenyo faulted the respondents for failure to do due diligence to establish the true ownership of Covidex drug, failure to collect taxes 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 veils of Covidex among others.
The petitioners also faulted the Attorney General for failing to advise the government on the revenue collected from the sale of Covidex such that it is placed in the consolidated fund from where the resources used to develop it came from.
They argued further that Prof Ogwang, a civil servant who draws salary from the consolidated fund and is employed at Mbarara University of Science and Technology used the government of Uganda facilities and laboratories and with the staff of University and PharmaBio Centre to develop the drug.
However, Prof Ogwang says the Covidex drug was developed in 2020 at Jena Herbals Limited which is outside MUST using private funds and the government only disbursed funds to the university in April 2021 for evaluation purposes of the already available product.
He contends that his move to produce the Covidex drug was driven by the government’s call to individuals to come up with a product that could alleviate COVID-19 and that they can’t transfer patent rights to the government and her people.
On claims by the applicants that Prof Ogwang uses local forest materials in the production of his drug, the Professor says that the Warbugia Ugandenis used to manufacture Covidex is purchased from farmers and not obtained from the forests.
“Anybody can harness nature of his benefits and it is the reason God has provided the plants and the defendants shouldn’t be condemned for harnessing nature which has and is benefiting Ugandans in the treatment of Covid-19″, reads the response in part.
According to his defence, Prof Ogwang maintains that he is the inventor of the Covidex drug under Jena Herbals Uganda Limited and therefore no need for it to be labelled Government and the people of Uganda since 45 million Ugandans can’t own an invention and can’t be inventors. He adds that an attempt in that direction would suppress inventions and innovations in individuals.
Prof Ogwang further contends that his company Jena Herbals Uganda Limited employs more than 200 Ugandans and it “pays various taxes including VAT, Income Tax and PAYE for its employees and it contributes to the revenue of this country and it would be malicious to inject the defendants for no sound reason”.
The response also indicates that it was not reasonable to wait for the Environment Impact Assessment-EIA while people are dying adding that their actions were determined in an emergency brought by coronavirus.
Through his lawyers, Ogwang says that the Covidex drug can’t be stopped as it’s a lifesaving drug unless the applicants want Ugandans to continue dying of the deadly virus.
According to Ogwang, Uganda is not a communist country where everyone has to surrender their enterprise to the state.
The Covidex drug was approved by the National Drug Authority-NDA as a supportive treatment in the management of viral infections.
The other 12 respondents are yet to file their defence to the case which is allocated to Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana.
There is also another related case against Prof Ogwang filed by Advocates for People -AFP which is owned by the former Lubaga North MP Moses Kasibante and Elvis Kintu Nsonyi.