Don’t Grant Synagogue Engineers Immunity, Lagos Tells Court | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Don’t Grant Synagogue Engineers Immunity, Lagos Tells Court

Posted: Aug 4, 2015 at 12:29 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Tunde Opeseitan  –  Lagos


The Lagos State Government has objected to the fundamental human rights enforcement suits filed by two structural engineers who constructed the six-storey building that collapsed at the Synagogue Church of All Nations on September 12, 2014.

The engineers – Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, had filed two separate suits before a Federal High Court in Lagos, challenging the verdict of the Coroner Court which on July 8, 2015 recommended them for criminal prosecution over alleged negligent conduct which claimed about 116 lives.

The Coroner court headed by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, had equally recommended the church for prosecution.

But Ogundeji and Fatiregun, through their lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, had filed the suits before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court to challenge the verdict of the Coroner and to seek an order restraining the police from inviting or arresting them for questioning.

When the matter came up on Monday, Lagos State Solicitor General, Lawal Pedro (SAN) told the court that government had filed a counter affidavit and a preliminary objection to the suits.

The state is contesting that the Federal High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suits.

The main complaint of the engineers, according to the state, is not for the enforcement of fundamental rights but a challenge to the verdict of the Coroner, and that the court, being a federal court, lacked the jurisdiction to entertain claim that touched on actions of state agencies.

Besides, the government urged the court to be weary of granting an order restraining the prosecution of the engineers, as they are not in the category of people who the constitution allow to enjoy immunity.

“The applicants not being the President, or Vice President of Nigeria or Governor or Deputy Governor of a state in Nigeria, have no immunity from criminal prosecution and this court should not make an order to restrain the government from arresting, investigating or prosecuting the applicants for criminal negligence,” the government argued.

The government further contended there was no iota of evidence before the court to suggest that the rights of the applicants were about to be breached, adding that the coroner never indicted them, but only recommended that they should be prosecuted before the court of law.

Throughout the proceedings before the coroner, government said the applicants fully participated, and were represented by lawyers.

The respondents in the suits are the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), the Attorney General of Lagos State and the Coroner, Oyetade Komolafe.

The matters slated for hearing on Monday could not go on as scheduled, as COREN lawyer, L.O Karim pleaded for more time to file his processes.

Based on that, Justice Idris adjourned to September 30 for hearing.

In the suits, the engineers are seeking, among others, a declaration that “the findings and recommendations of the 4th respondent as contained in the fourth respondent’s verdict dated 8th July, 2015 as they relate to the applicants’ indictment for prosecution for criminal negligence and recommendation for prosecution for criminal negligence by the first to third respondents are invalid, null and void and of no effect, whatsoever.”

They are also urging the court to declare that the Lagos CP lacked the power to act on the coroner’s verdict to investigate or prosecute them.