Engineers, who were indicted by the Lagos State coroner because of their involvement in building the collapsed guest house belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations, which killed 116 persons, have gone to court to stop their prosecution
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Aug 3, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE engineers constructing the collapsed building of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, have gone to the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, to restrain the Lagos State government and the police from carrying out the verdict of the coroner inquest. The engineers also want the court to quash the verdict of coroner court which indicted them and recommended that they should be prosecuted.
Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun in the suits numbered FHC/L/CS/1095/15 and FHC/L/CS/1096/15, through their lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, appeared on Wednesday before Justice Mohammed Idris with ex parte applications seeking to restrain the police from inviting or arresting them for questioning. The respondents in the suits are the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, the Attorney General of Lagos State and the coroner, Oyetade Komolafe.
Ojo, while seeking the protection of the court for the engineers, disclosed that the police had been after them, claiming that their constitutional rights to dignity and personal liberty, enshrined in sections 34 and 35 of the 1999 Constitution, were at stake as they could no longer move about freely.
The lawyer added that the police had visited the home of Ogundeji, saying that when they did not see him they arrested and detained his brother-in-law. As for Fatiregun, Ojo said the police went to his office in Ikeja, on July 16, to arrest him but he was not around. He was, however, said to have voluntarily gone to the police station following which he was arrested and detained and asked to make written statement regarding the role that his company, Hardrock Engineering Construction Limited, played in the collapsed SCOAN building.
Ojo said the move to arrest the engineers on July 16, followed the fundamental rights enforcement action that they filed against the respondents on July 15, challenging the coroner’s verdict. He said arresting the engineers in the face of the pending suits would amount to injustice, saying they had raised serious issues awaiting determination by the court. Following Ojo’s argument, the judge ordered all the parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the applicants’ motions on notice and adjourned the case to August 3, 2015 for hearing.
In the said motion on notice, the engineers are seeking, among other prayers, a declaration that the findings and recommendations of the coroner as contained in its verdict dated July 8, 2015, as they relate to the applicants’ indictment for criminal negligence and recommendation for prosecution for criminal negligence by the Lagos State government are invalid, null and void and of no effect, whatsoever.
They are also urging the court to declare that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police lacks the power to act on the coroner’s verdict to investigate or prosecute them. The engineers asked for a perpetual injunction restraining the Lagos State attorney general or any officer under his authority from initiating or commencing criminal proceedings against the applicants on the basis of the findings and recommendations of the coroner.
Oyetade Komolafe, Lagos coroner, who conducted an inquest into the deaths of the 116 persons that perished in the accident, had on July 8, 2015, indicted Ogundeji and Fatiregun of criminal negligence and recommended them for criminal prosecution by Lagos State.
Upon the receipt of the coroner’s verdict, Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos State governor, on Thursday July 16, disclosed the readiness of the state to implement the coroner’s verdict including filing criminal charges against the church and the two engineers.