A Lagos-based lawyer, Samuel Ilori, has threatened to sue Temitope Joshua (popularly known as T.B Joshua), the founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations, over the death of dozens of people after a building collapsed in the church’s premises.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, Mr. Ilori said that his group, Vote for Service Initiative, which advocates for good governance and human rights, will take up the case if the Lagos State government continues its foot-dragging.
“I started the campaign from last week that T.B Joshua must be brought to book, that justice must be done over the case,” said Mr. Ilori, a Corporate and Property Consultant.
“Because this is not the first time we will have a collapsed building, and this is not the first time that the Lagos State government has confiscated such land and made sure that the developer or the owner of the land face the law.
“What we are asking for is that government should do the needful. I believe they have concluded their investigation, as far as evacuation is concerned evacuation has been done. Everything that needed to be done, I believe has been done,” Mr. Ilori added.
A five-storey building inside the church’s premises in Ikotun, Lagos, collapsed on September 12 as three additional floors were being added to the original two-storey structure.
Eighty-six dead bodies were recovered from the rubble and 131 rescued, according to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.
On Monday, Jeff Radebe, a South African minister, said that 115 people, including 84 South Africans, died in the incident.
Both the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Institute of Building have stated that the church did not get approval before embarking on construction on the collapsed building.
The Lagos State government says it is still investigating the cause of the incident.
But Mr. Ilori accused the government of giving Mr. Joshua a preferential treatment.
“Section 74(1) of the Physical Planning and Development Law of Lagos State states inter alia that at any time there is a collapsed building within the state. Wherever it is discovered that there is a negligence on the part of the owner or the developer, that land will be confiscated and whoever is at the other side of the law will be prosecuted,” Mr. Ilori said.
“That’s exactly what we are asking for. That the Lagos State government headed by Governor Fashola should do the needful. That by now the land of Synagogue supposed to have been confiscated, especially that land where the building collapsed.
“But up till now they are still dilly dallying, up till now they are still trying to do it in a palliative way to see that they give the man a soft landing. All those shenanigan visits, I am not interested.
“How long are they going to investigate? What are they investigating? The question is, what are they investigating? They are investigating the cacophony of lies that the man put up, the first time he said it was Boko Haram, the second time he said it was one plane hovering about…
“They (the church) said they have an approval, the government said ‘bring the approval,’ they said the approval has collapsed with the building. That is nonsense. They are just giving the man enough time to buy time so that they can die this matter and that is the reason why we are not going to allow him.”
Mr. Ilori said that he would take the campaign to prosecute Mr. Joshua to the social media to create a lot of awareness. “By Thursday, by his grace, my group is going to write to the Lagos State government intimating him of those things that he had done concerning criminal negligence,” Mr. Ilori said.
“In 2008, Reverend King was convicted for putting fire on one of his devotees, the lady died. Reverend King right now is waiting for the guillotine. The same thing happened to Arowolo, the man they claimed killed his wife, the Lagos State government prosecuted the man and he was sentenced to death by hanging. The man is still waiting for the hangman’s noose.
“Why is it that it comes to T.B Joshua and the government does not know what to do about it?
“We called it criminal negligence because if you have a foundation for a building that’s supposed to collect two-storey building and you take it from two-storey building to six-storey building, that is suicidal. That means you know exactly that the foundation cannot contain that building that you are building on it and you take it for granted that whatever happens, let it happen. And that’s exactly what has happened here.
“We call it criminal negligence. That is why he’s supposed to be charged for culpable homicide, because he knew very well that that foundation that contain two storey building cannot take six storey building, yet he allowed it to go on.”
At the back of the main building of The Synagogue Church, an ongoing construction is putting additional three floors to the five-storey building. The state government said it had already stopped the construction until the church presents the approval documents.
“They (the government) said they gave them three months. These are all systems of buying time, and that is the time that we don’t have. That is time we are not going to give to Lagos State government,” Mr. Ilori
“Every other collapsed building in Lagos State have been taken over immediately evacuation has been done. So all these time that they are trying to buy for the man, we are not going to wait.
“Because it’s either the Lagos State government do the needful or a court of law will have to give them an order of mandamus, to tell us if Section 74 of that Physical Planning and Development law of Lagos State as amended in 2012 is no longer relevant. Because it is the Lagos State government that signed it into law.
“Lives have been lost. So the law of the land will apply,” Mr. Ilori added.