The South African government and its citizens are still reeling from the pain of losing 84 persons in the collapse of the guest house belonging to T.B. Joshua, founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations and may sue him for being criminally liable for the sad incident
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Oct. 6, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE controversy over the building collapse at the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, in Ikotun, Lagos State, on Friday, September 12, is still raging. The South African government has threatened to sue T.B. Joshua over the deaths of her citizens in the church while the Lagos State government has suspended its investigation into the incident. The action of the Lagos State government came at a time the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners is urging it to apply the full weight of the criminal law against anyone found culpable for the collapse of the Synagogue building collapse. Added to this is the fact that the Senate is to take over the investigation of the collapse of the Synagogue guest house which killed more than 100 people on September 12.
On Sunday, September 21, the Democratic Alliance, South African opposition party, directed Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, minister of international relations and cooperation in the country, to assist South African victims of the SCOAN building collapse and their families to sue the cleric. The party, according to Stevens Mokgalapa, its parliamentarian, believes the church may be criminally liable.
Nkoana-Mashabane was quoted by SABCNews.com as saying that the party felt that many lives could have been saved if rescue work had begun immediately after the building collapsed on September 12. “The Democratic Alliance is quite saddened and concerned about the reports of alleged negligence from the church in Nigeria just after the collapse of the building there. We also want to get the full disclosure of the assistance of the South African government and the cooperation of the Nigerian government as far as the tragedy is concerned,” she said.
Also, Jeff Radebe, South African minister in charge of Pretoria, has called for a probe by the Nigerian federal government. Radebe, who put the death toll from the building collapse at 115, with South Africans numbering 84. He stressed the need for the Nigerian government to urgently conclude its probe of the tragedy, which, according to him, has opened up a diplomatic rift between the two countries. Speaking after about two-dozen injured South Africans landed in Pretoria, Radebe explained that one of the survivors chose to remain in SCOAN.
“It’s the biggest evacuation effort by the (South African) Air Force since the dawn of democracy. We are keenly awaiting the investigation that is being conducted by the Nigerian government so that we can get to the bottom of the cause of this disaster,” he said.
But Ibrahim Farinloye, public relations officer, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, South-West zone, disagreed with Radebe, saying the death toll remains 86. “We are the ones on the ground and we are sticking to our report that 86 people died and 131 people were injured. We coordinated the rescue operation and we have no other statement to issue.”
Despite the disputation over the figure, one is yet to ascertain the reason the Lagos State government is suspending its investigation. The Lagos State government had said that the report of the investigations into the immediate and remote causes of the collapsed six-storey guest house would be ready in two weeks. Abimbola Animashaun-Odunayo, general manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, LABSCA, said the result of the investigation would be made public in two weeks, adding that all the necessary samples had been taken by experts for thorough investigation. According to her, experts are currently analysing the samples taken from the scene of the collapse building with a view of determining the causes of the collapse. “This will take about two weeks before the result is ready. We want to assure Lagosians that nothing will be swept under the carpet,” she said.
However, the Senate on Tuesday, September 23, mandated its committee on Lands, Housing and Urban Development to organise a sensitisation public hearing on the menace of collapsed buildings in the country.
It is not only the Senate that is doing investigation. Last week Tuesday, Musliu Obanikoro, minister of state for defence, said that investigations were ongoing to unravel the mystery over the aircraft that allegedly caused the collapse of a guesthouse belonging to the Syangogue Church in Lagos. The church had claimed that an unidentified airplane hovered above the building many times before it finally collapsed. “We must not pre-empt the outcome of investigation. The incident is under jurisdiction of the police and they will do all they can to conclude investigations swiftly,” Obanikoro said while paying a condolence visit to the church
All the discordant tunes notwithstanding, it is pertinent to state that after Realnews magazine story observed that T.B. Joshua never spared a thought for the victims of the building collapse and their families but vented his spleen trying hard to extricate himself from being held culpable, he had a rethink. On Sunday, September 21, roughly two weeks after the building collapse, the church for the first time, observed one minute silence for those who lost their lives as a result of the incident. Joshua also read a condolence speech were he sympathised with the families of those who lost their lives and the church in general. He even expressed the desire to visit South Africa whose citizens were mostly affect in the incident.
But Joshua’s desire may be derailed if the stance of the South African youth is anything to go by. The African National Congress Youth League has urged Jacob Zuma-led government not to issue a visa to the Joshua. Their anger had to do with Joshua’s statement describing those who died in the incident as martyrs. “T.B. Joshua should not be allowed to come to South Africa until we know what happened to our fellow countrymen at his church. We will make sure we engage with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to make sure we engage the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to make sure they do not issue him a South African visa.” About 350 South Africans were said to be visiting the church in the Ikotun neighbourhood of Lagos at the time of the incident.