Don’t Order Execution Of Inmates, Falana Urges Ambode

Don't Order Execution Of Inmates, Falana Urges AmbodeHuman rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has appealed to the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, not to order the execution of persons sentenced to death in the state.

In a letter to the Governor, a copy of which was sent to Channels Television, Mr Falana referred to a statement credited to the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniyi Kazeem, to the effect that Governor Ambode would soon decide the fate of condemned prisoners on death row in the state.

The senior lawyer insisted that death by hanging or firing squad violates the rights to freedom from torture.

He cited a judgement of the State High Court, saying: “The Lagos State High Court held that while a person who commits murder may be sentenced to death, it is illegal and unconstitutional to execute such death sentence by hanging or firing squad, as it will lead to the violation of his fundamental right to freedom from torture guaranteed by the constitution”.

He asked Governor Ambode not to sign a death warrant authorising the killing of any condemned prisoner, but instead commute the death sentences to life imprisonment.

“On the basis of the valid and subsisting judgment of the Lagos High Court on the illegality of the execution of the death penalty in Lagos State, we urge Your Excellency not to sign a death warrant authorising the killing of any condemned prisoner either by hanging, firing squad or any other means whatsoever.

“In the circumstance, Your Excellency may wish to commute the death sentences of all condemned prisoners in Lagos State to life imprisonment forthwith,” Mr Falana said.

Lagos Asks Court To Dismiss Synagogue’s Fresh Suit

SynagogueThe Lagos State government has urged a Lagos High Court in Ikeja to dismiss with substantial cost, a suit filed by the Registered Trustees of Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).

The suit filed by SCOAN is challenging the verdict of the Coroner Inquest into the collapse of a six-storey building within the church premises on September 12, 2014 that led to the death of 116 persons.

The verdict of the Coroner, presided over by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, was delivered on July 8, 2015 and same indicted the church and its engineers for criminal negligence and recommended them for prosecution.

The Lagos State government had thereafter, filed 111 counts criminal charge against the trustees of the church, the two engineers and two companies before Justice Lawal Akapo also of the Ikeja High Court.

Magistrate Komolafe had held that the building that killed the victims was built without approval, adding that its collapse was due to structural defect.

But the church and its engineers, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, rejected the verdict, describing it as unreasonable and one-sided.

In their fresh action filed before Justice Kazeem Alogba, the Trustees of SCOAN had sought for an order stopping their proposed arraignment and an order quashing the decision of the Coroner.

When the matter came up before Justice Alogba on Thursday, lawyer to the Trustees, Mr E.L. Akpofure (SAN) said that Magistrate Komolafe erred in law to have sat as Coroner Court in Alimosho District, which he argued was non-existent.

Akpofure also referred to an argument of the Lagos State government to the effect that the criminal charge filed before Justice Akapo was pursuant to the investigation conducted by the Police and not the decision of the Coroner, saying that such argument was a confirmation that no investigation was conducted because the Police never interrogated the Trustees of the church.

In response, Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, said on Thursday that the issue of wrong heading of the nomenclature of the Coroner was a mere irregularity which lacked the vibe to render the proceedings of the Coroner invalid.

While describing it as a mere technical point, Kazeem said that such argument was not directed at substantial justice and as such, the court should discountenance it.

Speaking on the powers of the Attorney General of a state to file criminal charge, Kazeem, who cited the case of Okereke Onyuike versus the People of Lagos State to buttress his argument, said once satisfied that a prima facie evidence has been established, the Attorney General has powers to file criminal charge even without the input of the Police.

While questioning the jurisdiction of the court to hear the instant suit, Kazeem argued that the trustees of the church were clearly out of time as mandated by Order 40, Rule 4 of the rules of the court within which to file the suit and as such, the case was dead on arrival.

He said under the rules, such application ought to have been brought within three months of the decision of the Coroner, but it was filed on January 13, 2016, almost six months after the verdict of the Coroner, which was delivered on July 8, 2015.

The Attorney General also faulted the verifying affidavit in support of the suit deposed to by one Sunday Okoroji, an Assistant to Prophet TB Joshua, saying the deponent lacked the power to replace the trustees of the church, who are legally empowered to do so.

He added: “My Lord, we submit that there is no proper verifying affidavit before this court because the said Okoroji cannot replace the trustees of the church who are still alive and kicking and as such, the application is incompetent,” Kazeem argued.

He thereafter, urged the court to dismiss the application with substantial cost, saying it was in the interest of justice for the court to so hold.

Justice Alogba, in a brief bench ruling, said that he would give the matter the urgency it deserved being a matter of public importance.

The judge consequently fixed February 19 for judgment on the matter.

Court Dismisses Synagogue Engineers’ Bid To Evade Prosecution

Court Dismisses Synagogue Engineers’ Bid To Evade ProsecutionThe Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed the fundamental human rights enforcement suits filed by the engineers who constructed the collapsed six-story building at the Synagogue Church Of All Nations.

The collapse of the building, which occurred on September 12, 2014 in Ikotun area of Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial city, led to the death of 116 persons in which most of them were foreigners.

Criminal Negligence

The Lagos State Government had promptly set up a Coroner’s Inquest to unravel what went wrong.

The Coroner Magistrate, Oyetade Komolafe, through a verdict delivered on August 7, 2015, indicted the engineers and the church and recommended them for investigation and prosecution for criminal negligence.

The engineers, Mr Oladele Ogundeji and Mr Akinbela Fatiregun, swiftly filed two separate suits before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, seeking an order restraining the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the victims’ death.

In his ruling on the defendants’ preliminary objection, Justice Buba held that the engineers “had not made out a case of infringement of their fundamental rights even on the merit of the application”.

He also held that the Coroner Law was an enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly which was constitutionally empowered to make laws in the state, adding that “the Federal High Court cannot dabble into the affairs of the state to start dishing out injunctive orders”.

The judge then maintained that the prayers by the engineers, asking for 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, cannot be granted in the circumstance of the case under review.

The Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, subsequently hailed Justice Buba on his verdict.

He said that the State government would immediately seek the arraignment and prosecution of the suspects at the Lagos High Court, where charges were already pending before Justice Lawal Akapo.

Lagos Has No Means To Relocate Badia Residents – Ipaye

The Lagos state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye has said that the state government does not have the means to relocate persons who were evicted from Badia East local government area, adding that, they were illegal residents of the swamp turned slum.

He said this on Sunrise while discussing about the alleged 9000 people who lost their homes as a result of forceful eviction and demolition by the Fashola led administration, in February.

A report by Amnesty International and the Socio Economic Right Action Centre stated that satellite pictures revealed a densely populated area containing concrete house and other structures razed to the ground but the Lagos State government denied this claim and said that the area was a rubbish dump.

A Nigerian representative of the Amnesty International, Oluwatosin Popoola confirmed that “approximately 36,000 square meters of high density structures were razed to the ground on the 23rd of February 2013”.

He further stated that the Lagos state government sent in bull dozers with the support of heavily armed police officers. Their research in May interviewed over 40 affected persons who testified to this.

“Several structures were demolished by officials of the Lagos state task force,” and “we were told the government didn’t come to mark any of their properties,” he added.

Their report also revealed that the residents were not informed beforehand and so were caught unawares by the eviction.

However, the Lagos state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye insisted that the 10 hectare area was an uninhabited swamp which ‘grew into a refuse dump’.

He said the government had projects it wanted to carry out on the land but before this could happen, scavengers came in and built wooden structures.

“The state governor had been there at least twice 2008 and in October, 2012, where “we made it clear that it was not permissible for people to build so called homes on refuse.”

He added that the area had harboured criminals who would carry out criminal activities in neighbouring communities.

A former resident of Badia who was born and bred in the area, Friday Ogunyemi, refuted the claims of the Commissioner, adding that the site was not a refuse dump.

He disclosed that the former state governor, Bola Tinubu had led a team of bull dozers in 2003.

He said their forefathers had been relocated from Oluwole Village (which was later called National Art Theatre) to the ‘back of Marble industry’ (now Badia east) which was owned by the Federal Government and not the Lagos state government.

Mr Ogunyemi also disclosed that the Federal Government in 2005 proposed a ‘slum upgrading’ project for the benefit of the residents. Lagos state was part of the technical committee.