The Synagogue Church of All
Nations (SCOAN) last Thursday faulted the verdict indicting the church on the building collapse at its premises, describing it as ‘’unreasonable, one-sided and biased’’.
SCOAN said this in an official statement signed by its legal counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo, and made available to The Tide source.
It also rejected the verdict of the coroner calling for the prosecution of two of the collapsed building’s contractors for criminal negligence, saying it was premature.
The church maintained that the building collapsed as a result of sabotage.
The Coroner, Mr Oyetade Komolafe, in his verdict on July 8, said the building collapse was caused by structural failure due to a combination of designs and detailing errors.
The September 12, 2014 collapse of a six-storey guesthouse within the Synagogue Church premises led to the death of 116 persons most of whom were foreigners.
Eighty-five of the victims were South Africans, 22 were Nigerians with two Beninoise and a Togolese while six victims remain unidentified.
A coroner’s inquest was instituted under the Lagos State Coroner’s System Law No. 7 of 2007 for the purpose of establishing the cause and manner of the collapsed building incident.
The inquest commenced sitting on October 13, 2014 and also visited the collapse scene on October 16, 2014.
SCOAN, in the statement, rejected the coroner’s claim that it had possessed no building approval for the collapsed structure.
The church said: “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 the church procured substandard materials for the construction of the building, as confirmed by officials of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON),’’ it said.
The church said that SON gave evidence at the coroner and certified the materials used were all approved and of good quality.
The statement faulted the coroner’s rejection of the claim that the building collapse was caused by a mysterious aircraft which hovered over the building moments before it came down.
“The church disagrees with the findings concerning the aircraft that hovered over the six-storey building.
‘’This is because there was evidence before the court that the incident could have been brought about by external forces such as controlled demolition or an explosion.
“The verdict did not even refer to the CCTV footage which showed the 6-storey building falling in less than 4 seconds which is a manner consistent with controlled or externally induced demolition,” it said.
The church noted that Komolafe in his verdict did not refer to the interim report and investigation by the Nigerian Police Force which pointed to sabotage by external forces.
On the coroner’s call for the prosecution of the architect, Mr Oladele Ogundeji, and the contractor, Mr Akinpela Fatiregun of Hardrock Construction Ltd., for criminal negligence, the church said the call for prosecution was ‘premature.’
“The recommendation for the investigation and prosecution of the contractors and structural engineers used by the church for criminal negligence is premature.
“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,” it said.
The church said that Komolafe did not refer in his verdict to the evidence of registered engineers and contractors used by the church.
It said he did not equally evaluate the conflicting evidence given by engineers as to whether or not the incident was as a result of structural failure.
Addressing Komolafe’s recommendation that statutory responders should be adequately equipped, SCOAN said that the church made efforts to ensure the rescue operation was successful.
“The coroner’s verdict was informed by the fact that the statutory responders who carried out rescue operations in this case were ill-equipped and ill-trained.
“It was the church that mobilised human and material resources to ensure a successful rescue operation.
“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.
‘’This calls into question the integrity and reliability of the entire investigation,” the church said.
The statement added that the verdict left many issues unaddressed and questions unanswered.
N69.4bn Debt: AMCON Seizes Properties, Freezes Accounts Of Jimoh Ibrahim
The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has taken over 12 assets belonging to Chairman of Global Fleet Group, Jimoh Ibrahim, and frozen all his accounts over his debt which amounts to N69.4billion.
The seizure of the assets is pursuant to an order by Justice R.M. Aikawa of a Federal High Court, in Lagos.
AMCON on Wednesday took effective possession of all 12 properties through its Debt Recovery Agent – Pinheiro Legal Partners, which include the following: the building of NICON Investment Limited at Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Central Business District, Abuja; NICON Hotels Limited building at Plot 557, Port Harcourt Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Abuja and the building of NICON Lekki Limited also at No. 5, Customs Street, Lagos.
Other properties include: The building of Abuja International Hotels Limited located at No. 3, Hospital Road, Lagos; another Property at Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Abuja; the former Allied Bank Building on Mile 2, Oshodi Express Way, Apapa Road, Lagos; Energy House located on No. 94, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; NICON Building at No. 40, Madeira Street, Maitama, Abuja; a Residential Apartment at Road 2, House A14, Victoria Garden City, Lagos; NICON Hotels Building at Plot 3, Road 3, Victoria Garden City, Lagos as well as the NICON Luxury Hotel’s Building, Garki I, FCT, Abuja.
In addition to the takeover of the listed properties, the court also ordered the freezing of all accounts belonging to Ibrahim and his companies, including Global Fleet Oil & Gas Limited and NICON Investment Limited all of who are defendants in the suit No. FHL/L/CL/776/2016 presided over by Justice Aikawa on Wednesday, November 4, 2020.
The court also granted AMCON possession over all shares belonging to the embattled Ibrahim and his two companies that are domiciled in Nigerian Re-Insurance Company Plc (NICON) Insurance Company Plc, Nigeria Stockbrokers Limited and NICON Trustees Limited.
AMCON’s Spokesman, Jude Nwauzor, said all the assets that are listed by the court and scattered around Abuja and Lagos had been successfully taken over by AMCON with the help of court bailiffs and officers and men of the Nigerian police as mandated by the court.
Land Use Charge: Stakeholders Call For More Property Valuation
Stakeholders in the real estate industry have said the Lagos State Government should increase the number of properties that have been valued under the amended Land Use Charge (LUC) Law, 2018.
They noted that this would take away the burden of paying high levies on properties by a few in the state.
The Deputy President, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, Mr Akintoye Adeoye, who applauded the recent amendment of the LUC law by the Lagos State House of Assembly, said the number of properties that were captured before the suspension of the process in 2018 was too small compared to the population of the state.
He said, “The percentage of properties that have been assessed is still less than 30 per cent. Rather than tax this number of people, it is better for the government to widen the net and bring more property owners onboard.
“It doesn’t make sense to tax just a few people, especially in a challenged economy like ours. We should bring in more people rather than increase the rate for a few.”
Adeoye said the state government’s decision to amend the LUC law would encourage more people to invest in property in Lagos State.
A six-man ad hoc committee, chaired by Rotimi Olowo, recently presented the report of its findings from a public hearing to the House of Assembly revealing that the review of the LUC lawwas generally perceived to be arbitrary and unrealistic.
During the presentation, Olowo was quoted to have said the Section 1(2), “Pensioner” should be redefined to include all retirees resident in the state from federal and state institutions and from both private and corporate organisations domiciled in the state.
He said it was agreed by participants and stakeholders during the public hearing that vacant plots of land and unoccupied properties should be exempted from the LUC liabilities and a proper classification of commercial and residential property in the state should be done for the purpose of levying.
Among other amendment is the Section 17(c) (i) stating that there is no need for 50 per cent payment by aggrieved owners over disputed charges before their eligibility to appeal, while aggrieved residents and property owners should pay the preceding year’s charges when the disputed charges are being resolved.
Akintoye noted that the resolve to amend parts of the law especially the aspect covering pensioners was a welcome development.
He said, “Before now, it used to be only Lagos State retirees but it has been extended to others across the federation.
“Lagos market is Nigeria’s market and people from all over the world invest in the state where many of them also retire. It doesn’t make sense to have that dichotomy in the treatment of pensioners.”
The President, Nigerian Institute of Building, Mr Kunle Awobodu, stated that to make the newly amended law achieve its objectives, there should be modalities for implementation to prevent fraud and false claims.
“I am in agreement with the amendment. The only thing I am sceptical about is how those from the private sector will be identified. It is difficult but it can be done. It is difficult to have an accurate record of pensioners from the private sector. But there should be modalities for implementation,” he added.
A former President, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Mr Bode Adediji, said even though the details of the amendment had not been made public, its assent by the governor and implementation should be looked into for the benefit of Lagos residents and investors.
Housing Deficit: LASG Completes 360 Homes In Ikorodu
Lagos State Government said it has completed construction of 360 additional housing units for commissioning soon as part of its efforts to tackle the challenge of housing deficit in the state.
The state Commissioner for Housing, Mr. Moruf Akinderu–Fatai, disclosed this recently, while conducting a validation and inspection visit to Lagos Homes, Lagshom Igbogbo Scheme 2B, in Ikorodu Local Government area of the state.
“Lagos is adding 360 more homes to the existing stock of homes in the state in the next few weeks,” Fatai said.
According to him, the state government has resolved to complete all housing schemes that were set aside by the previous administration in order to speedily bring succour to residents by increasing the availability of decent accommodation for the increasing population of the state.
“Reducing the housing deficit and bringing more people on the home ownership ladder through provision of affordable and quality homes are tasks that are germane to building a 21st century economy.
“Hence, the administration of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is frontally pursuing the goals of completing all the on-going housing schemes to ensure that befitting and decent accommodation is available to the ever increasing population of the state,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr. Wasiu Akewusola, who also affirmed that over 360 families would soon move to their homes, expressed satisfaction with the on–going works at the site and encouraged the contractors to keep up with the good job in order to deliver at the targeted date.
He disclosed that in year 2020, not less than 3,500 homes in Sangotedo, Idale in Badagry, Odo Onasa/Ayandelu, Ibeshe, Egan-Igando and Ajara would be completed from both government owned schemes and joint ventures.
The LagsHom Igbogbo Housing Estate is made up of 30 blocks of buildings with 120 units each of three-bedrooms, two-bedrooms and one- bedroom, making a total of 360 units of family homes.
In addition, the scheme which commenced in 2012 has a central sewage treatment plant, water treatment plant, high quality road network, and Street lights.
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