One year after the collapse of a six-storey building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which resulted in the death of 116 persons, the Lagos State Government will this Monday arraign the senior pastor of the church and one of its trustees, Mr. T.B. Joshua, and the engineers who built the collapsed building before a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja.
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A statement issued on Sunday by the Deputy Director, Public Relations in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Bola Akingbade, said Joshua and the engineers would be arraigned before Justice Lawal Akapo.
Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos had dismissed the fundamental human rights enforcement suits filed by the engineers who constructed the collapsed six-story building to stop their planned trial.
The engineers – Mr. Oladele Ogundeji and Mr. Akinbela Fatiregun – had filed two separate suits before Justice Buba seeking an order restraining the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the victims’ death.
The Lagos State Government had set up a coroner’s inquest to unravel what led to the building’s collapse that killed worshippers including scores from South Africa, and via a verdict delivered on August 7, 2015 by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, the coroner had indicted the engineers and recommended them for investigation and prosecution for criminal negligence.
The engineers had filed the suits following the coroner’s verdict, which attributed the building collapse to structural defects.
The engineers had rejected the coroner’s verdict, describing it as “unreasonable, one-sided and biased”.
But Justice Buba, in his ruling on the defendants’ preliminary objection, held that the engineers “had not made a case for infringement on their fundamental human rights even on the merit of the application”, and dismissed their applications.
The judge, who noted that the Coroner’s Law was an enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly, which is constitutionally empowered to make laws in the state, said: “The Federal High Court could not dabble into the affairs of the state and start dishing out injunctive orders.”
On the prayer by the engineers asking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Lagos State Attorney General or any officer under his authority from initiating or commencing criminal proceedings against them based on the verdict of the coroner, Justice Buba held that such request could not be granted in the circumstance of the case under review.
The judge added: “The coroner’s inquest is not a court of law; it does not find anybody guilty, it only recommends. The Federal High Court cannot tamper with the Coroner’s Law, which is a constitutional enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly.”
Shortly after the verdict, the state government had assured the public and families of the victims that the affected persons would be swiftly charged to court.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem.