Coroner’s Verdict Unreasonable, One-Sided – Synagogue | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Coroner’s Verdict Unreasonable, One-Sided – Synagogue

Posted: Jul 10, 2015 at 10:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Judith Eshemitan  –  Lagos


 The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) has rejected Wednesday indictment of the Lagos State Coroner’s Court, the collapse of a six-storey guesthouse in its premises on September 12, 2014.

The church, founded by Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, in a statement signed by Olalekan Ojo, its counsel, said the verdict is unreasonable, one-sided and biased.

The Lagos State Government inaugurated the Coroner’s Inquest under the Coroner’s System Law No.7 of 2007 to investigate the cause and circumstances resulting in the death of the victims and bring its findings and recommendations to the appropriate authorities.

The inquest, presided over by Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, had after  a 10-month hearing, in its verdict,  indicted SCOAN for the collapse of the guest house, resulting in the death of 116 people including several South African nationals.

The Coroner also recommended that the church should be investigated and tried for not obtaining the necessary permit before constructing the collapsed building.

Komolafe also indicted the structural engineers, Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun of Hardrock Construction, who supervised the construction of the collapsed guesthouse, and recommended that they should be investigated and tried for criminal negligence.

The church insisted on its earlier stand that the incident was due to sabotage, stressing that: “From the verdict given, we would like the public to take note of the following:

“There was no finding that the church engaged the services of unqualified or incompetent professionals for the construction of the building.

“There was no finding that the church procured substandard materials for the construction of the building, as confirmed by officials of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), who gave evidence at the coroner and certified the materials used were all approved and of good quality.

“There was evidence that the church had started processing the relevant building approval before the incident, which had been approved and assessed for payment by the appropriate government bodies.

“There was no finding that connected the incident with the lack of a building permit.

“There was no finding that church members prevented the statutory responders from carrying out their rescue duties.

“The church disagrees most vehemently with the finding that the incident was due to structural failure.

“The church considers it strange that the coroner did not refer in its verdict to the evidence of the COREN-registered structural engineer and contractor used by the church nor did it evaluate the conflicting evidence given by civil and structural engineers as to whether or not the incident was as a result of structural failure.

“It was a one-sided verdict which left many issues unaddressed and questions unanswered,” the church added, while also disagreeing with the findings of the coroner concerning the aircraft that hovered over the six-storey building, because, according to it, there was evidence before the court that the incident could have been brought about by external forces such as controlled demolition or an explosion.

It further noted that the verdict did not even refer to the CCTV footage which showed the 6-storey building falling in less than 4 seconds, “a manner consistent with controlled or externally induced demolition “ nor did it refer to the interim report and investigation by the Nigerian police force which pointed to sabotage by external forces.

“The church also disagrees with the finding that foundation failure was a remote cause because that is contrary to the overwhelming expert evidence of the structural engineers invited to the coroner who eliminated foundation failure as a possible cause.

“The recommendation for the investigation and prosecution of the contractors and structural engineers used by the church for criminal negligence is premature because it gives the impression the coroner has found them guilty when a coroner is not allowed in law to make any finding of civil or criminal liability against anybody.

“The recommendation for the investigation of The SCOAN for not possessing the relevant building permits is unwarranted because it did not take into account the evidence that the church had started processing the relevant building approval before the incident. As a matter of fact, the amount payable for the processing had already been assessed by the appropriate government agencies.”

“The recommendation that statutory responders should be adequately equipped was informed by the fact that the statutory responders who carried out rescue operations in this case were ill-equipped and ill-trained, and that it was the church that mobilised human and material resources to ensure a successful rescue operation.

“Finally, the coroner recognised that the conduct of the investigation of the incident was compromised by the failure of the appropriate government agencies to take necessary steps to secure and preserve the scene of the incident, which calls into question the integrity and reliability of the entire investigation.

“We repeat: No matter how long a lie is sustained, the truth will someday prevail”, it stressed.