An inquiry into the collapse of a guesthouse owned by the Synagogue Church of All Nations, in Ikotun, Lagos, will seek to find faults or convict anyone, the coroner, Oyetade Komolafe, said at the opening sitting of the inquest Monday.
The guesthouse collapsed on September 12, killing 115 mainly South Africans. The building was originally two-storey and was being refurbished with four additional floors when it buckled.
Lagos state officials said the church did not obtain requisite permit to add the additional floors.
The church claimed that the building was sabotaged, and released an alleged CCTV footage that showed an aircraft hovering over the building moments before it collapsed.
There have been increased calls from Nigerians for the government to prosecute the founder of the church, Temitope Joshua, for culpable homicide.
The State government instituted a Coroner Inquest on September 26, amidst accusation that it was foot-dragging in taking a decisive action over the issue.
“We are not here to convict anybody,” Mr. Komolafe, who is a Chief Magistrate, said Monday as the hearing opened.
“We are not accusing or convicting you of anything. We are here to find what happened and to avoid a re-occurrence,” he added.
Mr. Komolafe called on the South African government and other governments that lost their citizens in the collapse to send representatives to be part of the process.
He also appealed to individuals with information as to the cause of the collapse to come forward to testify. He said the court may be forced to issue a bench warrant to compel anyone or organisation it thinks could help the process to appear before it.
Mr. Komolafe, who was the coroner of the inquest into the cause of the Dana plane crash, said the court, alongside representatives of the church, counsels of the state government and other interested parties, would visit SCOAN on Thursday to inspect the site where the collapsed building was located.
He said the church should make available a copy of its CCTV footage of the building and surrounding areas before and during the incident.
The counsel representing SCOAN, Lateef Fagbemi, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, while expressing condolence to the family of the victims and “all well-meaning Nigerians” said the collapse bears all the signs of a security sabotage. He called on the government to lend a hand in addressing security issues in the state.
He said because the issue involved in the inquest is “multi-dimensional” and would involve several experts; the court should considering frontloading of evidence.
Akingbolahan Adeniran, counsel representing Lagos State said the government is ready with its evidence.
He also announced that the state’s commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Olutoyin Ayinde, and the Chief Medical Director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Wale Oke, would be the two witnesses for the state during the inquest.
Other organisations at the Monday siting were, The Nigerian Red Cross Society, represented by Nwosu Simple; Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASMA); and The Nigerian Police Force represented by Legal Officer of the Lagos State Police Command, Chukwu Agwu.
Sitting was adjourned to the October 24 when court would begin taken oral witnesses.
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