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Synagogue building collapse: Court rejects engineers’ application to stop prosecution
A Federal High Court in Lagos has dismissed the fundamental rights enforcement suits filed by the engineers who built the collapsed Synagogue Church of All Nations’ six-storey building that killed 116 persons on September 12, 2014.
The engineers, Mr. Oladele Ogundeji and Mr. Akinbela Fatiregun, were seeking an order restraining the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the victims’ death.
They had filed the suits following the verdict of the coroner’s inquest, which attributed the building collapse to structural defect and recommended the engineers for investigation and prosecution for criminal negligence.
Justice Ibrahim Buba, in his ruling on the defendants’ preliminary objection on Monday, said the engineers “had not made out a case of infringement on their fundamental rights even on the merit of the application,” and dismissed their applications.
The judge held that the Coroner Law was an enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly, which is constitutionally empowered to make laws in the state
He said, “The Federal High Court could not dabble into the affairs of the state and start dishing out injunction orders.”
The engineers had, through their lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, rejected the coroner’s verdict, describing it as “unreasonable, one-sided and biased.”
They had prayed Justice Buba to make an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Lagos State Attorney General or any officer under his authority from initiating or commencing criminal proceedings against them based on the verdict of the coroner.
The state, through his counsel, Mr. A. A. Bakare, however, filed a preliminary objection.
Bakare had argued that the engineer’s case was not fundamental rights enforcement in nature but one intending to stop government agents from performing their statutory and constitutionally recoginsed duties.
Buba, in his ruling upheld the respondents’ preliminary objection, saying “the coroner’s inquest is not a court of law, it does not find anybody guilty, it only recommends,” adding that the Federal High Court could not tamper with the Coroner Law, which is a constitutional enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
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