Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of an Ikeja High Court will on April 19 decide whether or not to stay proceedings in the ongoing proceedings initiated by the Lagos state government against the registered trustees over the September 12, 2014 building collapse at Synagogue Church of all Nations.
The decision of the court was sequel to various applications filed by the defendants before the court seeking to stay proceedings pending the determination of their appeals at the Court of Appeal.
The September 12, 2014 collapse of the six-storey guest house led to the death of 116 persons, 85 of whom were South Africans.
In line with the recommendation of the coroner court, the state government had filed 111 count charge against the engineers who designed the guest house; Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, their companies; Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited alongside the trustees of SCOAN .
The defendants are yet to be formally arraigned before the court as several applications were filed against their trial.
At the resumed hearing on Friday, counsel to Fatiregun, Mrs Titi Akinlawon (SAN) in an application dated March 3 prayed for an order adjourning further hearing pending the determination of her application before the Court of Appeal.
Akinlawon said: “The essence of the application for adjournment is that the High Court ruled that the hearing notices served on the fifth defendant was proper, a ruling we are appealing at the higher court.”We also have before the court an application for a stay of proceedings to await the decision of the Court of Appeal.
“On this strength, I appeal that an adjournment be granted by this court.”
Counsel to Ogundeji and Jandy Trust Limited, Chief E.L Akpofure (SAN) in an application dated February 17 objected to the inclusion of Jandy Trust Limited as one of the defendants.
Akpofure said “The issue here is very narrow, there is no evidence against the second defendant (Jandy Trust Limited), the second defendant was never mentioned by the witnesses for the state.
“There is nowhere where it was stated that the second defendant was awarded the building contract.
“The argument of the state that the trial of the second defendant to go on holds no water.
“I urge your lordship to quash this information relating to the second defendant as there was no mention of my client in the proof of evidence.”
Counsel to the trustees of SCOAN, Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) agreed with the submission of Akpofure that Jandy Trust Limited should be excluded from the charge.
He said “I will submit that the concept of justice has no sentimental connotation, there have been no mention of the second defendant in the proof of evidence.”
However, Mrs Idowu Alakija, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) objected to the applications of the defence to adjourn the matter.
She said: “Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) 2011 guides the proceedings of this court.
“It’s ordinary and natural application disallows a stay of proceedings on criminal matters to be entertained before any judgment be given.
“The rules of the Section are clear, the provision may seem novel, but it was created to stop frivolous cases and applications until judgment is given.
“Since we filed the information, so many applications have been filed by the defence, some were successful while others were withdrawn.
“In finality, I submit that the rules guiding the proceedings in this court is the ACJL 2011 and we are urging your Lordship to dismiss the application of the fifth defendant.”
After taking the submissions of counsels in the matter, , the judge said “This trial is adjourned to Tuesday, April 19, 2016 for ruling.” – The Nation.