Synagogue Collapse: Lagos Court to rule March 3 on Coroner’s powers to summon TB Joshua

A Lagos high court ‎presided by Justice Lateefa Okunnu‎, has reserved ruling on a suit filed by the Synagogue Church of All Nations, and its founder, Temitope Joshua, challenging the powers of a Coroner court probing last September’s collapse of the church’s building, which killed over 100 people.

The court will rule March 3.

The suit is seeking judicial review of proceedings of a coroner’s inquest initiated by the Lagos State government to investigate the September 12, 2014 collapse of the church’s six-storey building which claimed the life of 116 persons.

Mr. Okunnu on Friday morning adjourned ruling till March 3 following the church’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi’s reply on point of law to the argument raised by lawyer to the Lagos State government before the court.‎

In moving the application, Mr. Fagbemi maintained that the Lagos State Coroner’s Law 2007 only gave powers to the coroner to determine the cause of death and to identify the body of the deceased.

He further argued that taking evidence on the issues of approval and construction of the collapsed building was clearly outside the scope and jurisdiction of the coroner’s court.

He said that the Chief Magistrate Komolafe had been hearing evidence on such extraneous issues at the inquest which started proceedings on October 13, 2014.

Mr. Fagbemi maintained that Sections 32 and 33 of the Coroner Law did not empower the coroner to summon all manners of persons to appear before the inquest. He said the coroner’s summons on Prophet Joshua to personally appear before the inquest is unconstitutional and a breach of his right to fair hearing.

He insisted that the coroner, Mr. Komolafe, showed personal interest in the subject matter which could lead to bias against Synagogue Church.

Mr. Fagbemi then prayed Justice Okunnu to grant the application and declare the coroner proceedings null and void.

In responding, lawyer to the Lagos State Government, Afeez Owokoniran, prayed the court to throw out the suit.

According to the lawyer, the coroner had extensive powers to investigate the cause and circumstances of death and bring his findings and recommendations to the attention of appropriate authorities.

He said, “In doing this, he has all the powers of a magistrate to summon and compel the attendance of witnesses, including medical examiners, and require them to give evidence, produce documents or present other relevant materials.

“In order to determine the cause of death, the coroner has the latitude to investigate issues pertaining to building approval, soil testing and materials used in the construction of the collapsed building.”

Ms. Okunnu had earlier awarded N25, 000 in cost against the Synagogue Church Of All Nations and its founder, Temitope Joshua, for delaying further hearing on the suit. 

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the money has been paid by the church. 

Meanwhile, the coroner inquest into the collapsed building will resume sitting on Tuesday, February 24

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