Thursday, February 4, 2016 4:12 pm
The Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of Nations, founded by Prophet T.B. Joshua, on Thursday insisted that the verdict of the coroner’s inquest into the church’s collapsed six-storey building must be quashed.
A Lagos State Coroner Court, presided by Mr. Oyetade Komolafe, had on July 8, 2015 indicted the church and its engineers, holding them liable for the death of the 116 persons who lost their lives in the collapsed building.
The coroner recommended that the church should be investigated and prosecuted for building without the state’s approval while the engineers should be investigated and prosecuted for criminal negligence.
The state had subsequently filed 111 counts against the Registered Trustees of SCOAN and the engineers, Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited.
The Registered Trustees of SCOAN had however gone before Justice Kazeem Alogba of a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja seeking to fault the coroner’s verdict and ultimately quash it.
In their cetiorari application, the applicants argued that the Alimosho Coroner District where the coroner claimed to have sat was unknown to law, because it was not listed in the Coroner System Law Chapter C(15), Laws of Lagos State, 2015.
Besides, they argued that there was no specific coroner district covering the Ikotun Egbe area of Lagos State where the collapsed building was sited.
Moving the application on Thursday, the applicants’ lawyer, Chief E.L. Akpofure (SAN), argued, “The coroner, having held that this Alimosho District existed, sat in that capacity and carried out all the proceedings in that capacity, arrogating jurisdiction to himself where none existed, attracts nothing but a judicial review for which we have come before Your Lordship.”
But the state, through its Attorney General, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, has however urged the court to dismiss the application for lacking in merit.
Kazeem, while arguing a counter-affidavit in opposition, pointed out that the application seeking judicial review was not filed within three months as stipulated by law.
“The question we want to ask is whether this application was brought within three months.
“The verdict of the coroner was delivered on July 8, 2015. If I do a simple calculation, the application for judicial review should have been filed latest by October 8, 2015. The applicants filed the application for judicial review on January 13; that is almost six months after the verdict of the coroner.
“Once that application was not filed on that magic date of 8th of October, 2015, the application is dead on arrival. And so, we submit that this court no longer has jurisdiction to hear this application,” Adeniji argued.
He further argued that the designation of the coroner, which sat in Ikeja, as Alimosho District Coroner was “a mere irregularity that can be condoned by the court.”
“It does not render the coroner’s proceedings a nullity,” Adeniji argued.
He further argued that the plaintiffs’ application was not competent because it carried no heading.
“My Lord, there is no verifying affidavit to support the application. Without an affidavit, the application is incompetent. It’s like a kite without it’s tail,” Adeniji said.
In the application, the Registered Trustees of SCOAN are seeking, among others, an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Attorney General of Lagos State or any officer under his authority from taking any step to enforce the recommendations of the coroner, including their prosecution.
They also sought an order setting aside the charge dated November 9, 2015 and numbered ID/1759C/15 filed against them before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo on the premise of the verdict of the coroner court