Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos High Court on Friday threw out the application filed by founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, Prophet Temitope Joshua seeking to stop the inquest into the collapse of a building within his church premises.
Justice Okunnu dismissed the application for being premature and lacking in merit.
The inquest was set up by the Lagos State Government to unravel the cause of the September 12, 2014 building collapse which killed 116 people mostly of South African nationality
The applicants had dragged the coroner’s court and the coroner, Mr Oyetade Komolafe, before Okunnu asking for a judicial review of the proceedings.
Their counsel, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), had asked the court to determine whether the witness summons served on Joshua to appear before the coroner did not constitute an infringement on his right to fair hearing.
Fagbemi had also asked the court to declare that the coroner exceeded the jurisdiction of a coroner’s court by delving into areas that were beyond its scope.
Komolafe was also accused of being biased and demonstrating a personal interest in the matter.
The respondent’s counsel, Mr Akinjide Bakare, had urged the court to dismiss the application, arguing that the coroner had extensive powers to investigate the cause and circumstances of death and report to the appropriate authorities.
He said in order to determine the cause of death, the coroner has the latitude to summon any witness and investigate issues pertaining to building approval, soil testing and materials used in the construction of the collapsed guest house.
Delivering her ruling, the judge held that although the coroner’s court cannot be sued, Komolafe himself can be sued in his capacity as a coroner.
According to her, the court needed to resolve the issue whether the coroner has acted contrary to the rules of natural justice by not granting the applicants a fair hearing and whether he has exceeded the scope of a coroner’s court.
Okunnu said Sections 26 and 27 of the Coroner’s System Law of Lagos State 2007, empowered the coroner to summon any witness to assist him in his fact-finding mission, adding that there was nothing unusual in the summons extended to Joshua.
The judge said there was no evidence before the court that the coroner had been biased against the applicant and therefore dismissed the suggestion.
She also held that a coroner had the prerogative to take evidence from any witness he deemed relevant to reaching his conclusions.
“I find therefore the present application lacks merit and has failed in its entirety. It is accordingly dismissed,” Okunnu said.
Meanwhile, at the resumption on the inquest on Friday, a Structural Engineer and Consultant to the Lagos State Material Testing Agency, Saheed Ariyori, revealed that he was not a professional in sub-soil investigations. Speaking while being cross-examined by counsel to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Olalekan Ojo, the witness further confirmed that he did not participate in the generation of the sub-soil investigation report already tendered before the court.
According to him, “We did integrity test on the rubble that collapsed. The report showed that the concrete used on the collapsed building was good.
“Our investigation report did not show that there were signs of stress on the foundation of the collapsed building.”
Besides, Ariyori confirmed that there were errors in his calculations made before the court on March 4, 2015. – PM News.