A Nigerian state court Monday issued an arrest warrant for three Pfizer Inc. group staffers who allegedly defied a summons and failed to appear in court for hearings of a case against the US drugs company for an alleged illegal clinical trial.

Presiding judge Shehu Atiku said the three accused resident in Nigeria had been served summonses to appear before the court on November 6.

"But up till this moment none of them has appeared before this court either out of neglect, disrespect or contempt," the judge said before issuing the warrant.

"There is no information on why they have refused to comply with this court's order... This court will not fold its arms while these individuals continue to abuse its process," Atiku said, before adjourning the case to January 29, 2008.

Kano state filed civil and criminal suits against Pfizer in May, claiming 2.75 billion dollars (1.9 billion euros) in compensation and prosecuting nine Pfizer staff, some of them resident outside Nigeria.

The state accuses the company of illegally testing a meningitis drug called Trovan on 200 children in April 1996 during a triple epidemic of measles, cholera and meningitis in which over 12,000 people died.

The alleged illegal clinical trial led to the deaths of 11 children and deformities including deafness, blindness, paralysis and brain damage in 181 others.

Pfizer denies any wrongdoing.

In the criminal case, Kano state accused Pfizer of conspiracy, culpable homicide and causing grave harm to the alleged victims of the drug trial.

The criminal case has been deadlocked over the non-appearance of the accused without which the proceedings cannot commence.

A motion filed by Pfizer International Inc, challenging the jurisdiction of the Kano court, prevented judge Atiku from immediately issuing arrest warrants for the group's other six staffers.