The Coroner handling the inquest into the cause of the building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Oyetade Komolafe, has insisted that the founder of the church, Temitope Joshua, must appear before the court to testify in person.
Mr. Komolafe made this pronouncement on Monday after SCOAN’s counsel, Osita Nnadi, suggested that Mr. Joshua does not need to personally testify since he wasn’t an eyewitness to the incident.
Mr. Komolafe shut down the suggestion saying Mr. Joshua has been summoned to appear before the court to testify and must comply with the directive of the court.
“The court has summoned him. He must come to court. He cannot sit and be sending words to us. That is unacceptable. He has been summoned, the counsel should advise him accordingly,” said Mr. Komolafe.
Olalekan Ojo, a supporting counsel for the SCOAN, insinuated that the coroner was trying to play to the gallery by insisting that Mr. Joshua must personally testify in court.
“Witnesses are not to be summoned for the purpose of sensationalism,” Mr. Ojo told journalists outside the courtroom at the end of the day’s proceedings.
“Witnesses are to be summoned for the purpose of giving material evidence. He (Mr. Joshua) was not at the scene. He was not the contractor,” he added.
Meanwhile, contrary to the narrative of the church that the guest house was sabotaged and that a “controlled explosion” might have led to the collapse of the building, the representative of the Lagos State Fire Service, Adebayo Olayimika, told the court that the collapse building did not show any sign that it was brought down as a result of an explosion.
Mr. Olayimika who testified that the result of the “360-degree survey” he conducted at the site soon after the building collapsed showed that floors collapsed on top of each other.
“There was no brick scattered and the floors has collapsed on top of one another. The building did not depict any sign of explosion and implosion.”
He also added that he did not perceive any toxic odour, which would have been the case it had been an explosion.
The fireman also added that those that were rescued were whole and none of their body parts were dismembered, which would have occurred if there were an explosion.
He also said there was no fire outbreak at the site on the day the building collapsed. According to him the fire that occurred at the site happened three days after the incident occurred.
“There was fire incident on the September 15. The fire was caused by friction as a result of rescuers cutting iron rods that produced heat and there were burning materials such as mattresses and the cooking gas was concentrated in the area.”
The counsel representing the police, Chukwu Agwu, however asked Mr. Olayimika if he has any qualification in bomb and ordinance handling to have come to the conclusion that the building was not brought down by an explosion.
The fireman replied that he supervised the rescue effort during the 2013 explosion at the popular Jankara Market in Lagos caused by explosion of firecrackers. He also added that the need for the “360 survey” was to gather physical evidence and the evidence he gathered did not suggest that building was brought down due to an explosion.
Mr. Komolafe also scheduled how the court would take witnesses for the rest of the inquest as follows:
On October 28, the Pathologist, Lagos State Emergence management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Ministry of Works and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) are billed to testify. On October 29, the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Building Collapse Prevention Guild and the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning would testify.
The South African Embassy, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Surveyor General of the State were slated to testify on October 30.
Mr Joshua, the contractor in-charge of the building and the Nigerian Police were billed to testify on November 5 while testimony from Channels Television and TV Continental would be taken on October 6.
South African-Nigerian relationship not strained
The South African Ambassador, who also attended the inquest, told reporters that the incident would not strain the amiable relationship between South Africa and Nigeria.
Over 115 people died in the incident and 85 of them are believed to be South Africans. The SCOAN is popular among South Africans who frequent the church in large number in search of spiritual healing.
Following the high South African casualties, many believe that the seemingly delay of the Nigerian authorities in dealing with the issue would lead to diplomatic face-off between both countries.
“The South African relation with Nigeria comes a long way. We established this relation during the struggle against apartheid. This actually will make us work closer together.”
He also said that the incident was not the reason his country seized the $15 million meant for the purchase of arms from Nigerian dealers.
“The South African relation with Nigerian is priceless; it cannot be sold for $15 million. These are two separate incidents.”