Lagos Government to Prosecute Synagogue, Engineers

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Akinwunmi Ambode

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Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State says he is going to follow the recommendations of the coroner who investigated the building collapse in the premises of Synagogue Church of All Nations and bring all the culprits to justice

| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul 27, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |

THE Lagos State government has promised to enforce the verdict of the coroner’s inquest on the September 12, 2014 Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, building collapse. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State gave this indication in a statement by Habib Aruna, his chief press secretary, on Thursday, July 16, saying his government would uphold and enforce the sanctity of the law in the state. He, therefore, urged residents of the state to also respect the rule of law.

The statement said in part: “The coroner’s verdict of July 7, 2015, made a number of recommendations which the state government would act upon accordingly. One of the provisions of the Coroner Law, 2007, is the provision that empowers a coroner to commence an inquest to find out the cause and manner of death which occur in an unusual manner.”

The governor added that consequent upon the collapse building on the premises of the SCOAN, the state government applied that a coroner’s inquest be commenced into the cause of the tragic deaths. “Therefore, the Lagos State Government will cause the prosecution of the contractor, Akinbela Fatiregun of Hardrock Engineering Company Limited; and the Structural Engineer, Oladele Ogundeji, who constructed and supervised the collapsed building, respectively, at the Synagogue Church of All Nations for professional negligence,” he said.

Governor Ambode said that the government would also prosecute the SCOAN for neglecting to obtain building approval before commencing the construction of the building, contrary to the provisions of the Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law, 2010. The governor used the opportunity to appeal to Lagos residents to always allow emergency responders to perform their duties during emergencies as they were trained for the purpose. “Also, land owners within the state, who intend to embark on construction, should employ the services of qualified engineers who must obtain building permit before construction,” he said.

The coroner inquest had on Wednesday, July 8, indicted the SCOAN for criminal negligence which led to the collapse of the church building that killed 116 people. The coroner, in its verdict, recommended that the SCOAN should be prosecuted by the state government for the collapse of its six-storey building which killed many foreigners because it did not get the necessary permit or approval before commencing construction of the building.

The Coroner’s Court, presided over by Oyetade Komolafe, a chief magistrate, held that structural failure due to combination of designs and detailing errors were the cause of the building collapse. He added that the state government should as a matter of urgency carry out detailed fitness for habitation test on all the structures/buildings within the premises of the SCOAN, situated at Segun Irefin Street, Bolorunpelu, Egbe, Lagos State.

He said the alleged aircraft which hovered over the building was not the cause of the building collapse as “building permits/approval was not obtained in respect of the collapsed building,” adding: “The foundation failure was a remote cause of the collapsed building.”

But the church still insists that it is not liable as charged by the coroner. Olalekan Ojo, counsel to the church, said no findings were made by the coroner that indicted the church over the collapsed building. “Yes, the court said the church building collapsed due to structural failure but never said the church was guilty of any offence. So, with the situation I never doubt my client may challenge the verdict of the coroner,” Ojo said.

This perhaps gave some of the church members to hold a protest match as soon as the verdict was delivered, accusing the state of witch-hunting the church. However, as the drama on the case continues to play on, it is yet to be seen how the state government would handle the matter without offending the religious sensibility of certain people who are regarding the case against the church as witch-hunt. Besides, as the state law stipulates, the state government is expected to confiscate the land on which the building collapsed, but whether the SCOAN will allow this to happen is another matter. In any case, Nigerians, indeed, the world awaits what will happen, especially considering the fact that South Africa lost more than 80 citizens in the collapsed building where more than 100 persons were killed.

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