The Synagogue Church of All Nations has rejected the verdict reached by a coroner investigating the cause of the collapse of a six-storey building belonging to the church last year.
A statement released by the church, Thursday, insisted that the building collapse, which killed about 116 people, was due to sabotage.
“The Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) rejects the verdict of the coroner on the grounds that it is unreasonable, one-sided and biased,” the church said in the statement issued by its lawyer, Olalekan Ojo.
”The church maintains its stand that the incident was as a result of sabotage.”
A coroner’s inquest instituted by the Lagos State government following the incident that led to the death of mostly South Africans, in September last year, delivered it’s verdict on Wednesday.
According to Oyetade Komolafe, the Coroner, the accident occurred due to the church’s “criminal negligence,” an action which deserves prosecution.
“The church must be investigated and prosecuted for not obtaining the relevant approval before embarking on the construction of the building,” said Mr. Komolafe, a magistrate.
“The church was culpable because of criminal negligence resulting in the death of victims. Structural failure due to the combination of designs and detailing errors caused the building to collapse.”
‘One sided verdict’
The Synagogue church maintained its stance since the tragedy occurred that it was not culpable, rather some external forces caused the building to collapse as additional floors were being added onto it.
In its statement, the church noted that there was no finding, in the course of the inquest, that it engaged the services of unqualified or incompetent professionals for the construction of the building.
“There was no finding that the church procured substandard materials for the construction of the building, as confirmed by officials of the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) who gave evidence at the coroner and certified the materials used were all approved and of good quality,” the church said.
While testifying before the coroner, the Lagos State government had stated that the church did not get an approval before it began the construction of four additional floors on the originally two storey building.
But the church said there was evidence during the inquest that it had started processing the relevant building approval before the incident, adding that it had been approved and assessed for payment by the appropriate government agency.
“There was no finding that connected the incident with the lack of a building permit,” the church continued.
“There was no finding that church members prevented the statutory responders from carrying out their reacue duties. The church disagrees most vehemently with the finding that the incident was due to structural failure.”
The statement noted that it was strange that the coroner failed to refer in its verdict the evidence of the COREN-registered structural engineer and contractor used by the church, nor did it evaluate the conflicting evidence given by civil and structural engineers as to whether or not the incident was as a result of structural failure.
“It was a one-sided verdict which left many issues unaddressed and questions unanswered,” said the church.
“The church disagrees with the findings concerning the aircraft that hovered over the six-storey building because there was evidence before the court that the incident could have been brought about by external forces such as controlled demolition or an explosion.
“The verdict did not even refer to the CCTV footage which showed the 6-storey building falling in less than 4 seconds – a manner consistent with controlled or externally induced demolition – nor did it refer to the interim report and investigation by the Nigerian police force which pointed to sabotage by external forces.
“The church also disagrees with the finding that foundation failure was a remote cause because that is contrary to the overwhelming expert evidence of the structural engineers invited to the coroner who eliminated foundation failure as a possible cause.”
The church further stated that the coroner’s recommendation for the investigation and prosecution of the contractors and structural engineers used by the church for criminal negligence is premature because it gave the impression the coroner had found them guilty.
It added that a coroner is not allowed in law to make any finding of civil or criminal liability against anybody.
“The recommendation for the investigation of The SCOAN for not possessing the relevant building permits is unwarranted because it did not take into account the evidence that the church had started processing the relevant building approval before the incident,” said the church.
“As a matter of fact, the amount payable for the processing had already been assessed by the appropriate government agencies.
“The recommendation that statutory responders should be adequately equipped was informed by the fact that the statutory responders who carried out rescue operations in this case were ill-equipped and ill-trained, and that it was the church that mobilised human and material resources to ensure a successful rescue operation.
“Finally, the coroner recognised that the conduct of the investigation of the incident was compromised by the failure of the appropriate government agencies to take necessary steps to secure and preserve the scene of the incident, which calls into question the integrity and reliability of the entire investigation.”
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