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Synagogue collapse: Court adjourns till Dec 11 to arraign TB Joshua, others

01/12/2015 11:43

A Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has adjourned further proceedings in the charges filed against the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations, (presided over by Prophet T. B. Joshua), and others till December 11, 2015.

The defendants were scheduled to be arraigned on Monday before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo on 111 counts in connection with the September 12, 2014 collapse of the SCOAN six-storey building in the Ikotun Egbe area of Lagos, where 116 persons died.

The scheduled arraignment could, however, not take place as the counsel who appeared for the 1st and 2nd defendants, Mr. Oluseun Abimbola, told the court that not all the defendants had been served with the charges filed before the court.

Apart from the Registered Trustees of SCOAN, the other defendants in the charges filed by the Lagos State Government are Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company, Jandy Trust Limited, and Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, who were the engineers working on the ill-fated building.

When the matter was called on Monday, a man, who did not mention his name, announced appearance as the representative of the Registered Trustees of SCOAN and was ordered into the dock by the judge.

The Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Kazeem Adeniji, thereafter announced appearance for the prosecution while Abimbola announced appearance for the Registered Trustees of SCOAN and Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company.

Abimbola, however, said, "To the best of my knowledge, I stand corrected by the records of Your Lordship, the other defendants have yet to be served with the information in this matter."

Upon checking the record before him, Justice Lawal-Akapo said he could see evidence of service in respect of the 1st and 3rd defendants.

Adeniji also confirmed that the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations and Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company had been served, saying, "The proof of service is in Your Lordship's file. However, the 3rd to 5th defendants have not been served because their addresses are not valid. That is why we have an application for substituted service. We wish to serve by newspapers publication."

But Abimbola disputed Adeniji's claim that the engineers' addresses were invalid, recalling that the state had served the engineers with court processes in previous proceedings.

He, however, volunteered to supply the addresses of the 3rd to 5th defendants to the state counsel, if he insisted that the addresses of the defendants were invalid.

Justice Lawal-Akapo directed Abimbola to supply the state with the defendants' addresses within 72 hours, noting that proper service was foundational to any proceedings, be it criminal or civil, without which everything done would amount to a nullity.

While adjourning the case till Friday, December 11, 2015 for the defendants to take their plea, the judge noted that the case was not only criminal but a sensitive one and called the attention of the parties to a gazette which stipulates that criminal cases must be given an accelerated hearing.

The Registered Trustees of the SCOAN were charged with one count of failure to obtain building approval contrary to Section 41 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State 2010.

The other four defendants were charged with 110 counts of involuntary manslaughter, causing death contrary to Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.

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