Building Collapse: Synagogue Church Faults Coroner’s Verdict

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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.