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Court rules Synagogue church has a case to answer over 2014 building collapse
A Lagos State High Court has dismissed the “no-case submission” filed by the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in the case brought against it by the Lagos State government following a building collapse in the church premises in September 2014.
The collapse of the six-storeyed building still under construction led to the death of 116 people, most of them South African.
The Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions said that the church had gone ahead with the construction in spite of disapproval by the state’s Urban and Regional Planning Agency.
Consequently, the state government sued Hardrock Construction & Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Ltd, the companies handling the construction, as well as Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, owners of the companies.
They were charged with violating Section 75 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State 2010 and Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.
Also, a coroner’s inquest set up to independently investigate the incident recommended that SCOAN should be prosecuted for failing to obtain necessary approval before embarking on the construction of the building, and that the two structural engineers be prosecuted for criminal negligence.
The defendants were arraigned on April 19, 2016, and they pleaded ‘not guilty.’
After tendering several documents and calling several witnesses to prove the allegations against the accused persons, the Lagos State Government closed its case in October 2017.
However, the defendants, rather than open their defence, filed a ‘no-case’ submission, arguing that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case against them; hence the court should discharge them.
When hearing resumed on Thursday, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo dismissed the no-case submission filed by the defendants and held that a prima facie case had been established and that they have a case to answer.
He subsequently adjourned the case to April 27 for the defendants to open their case.