A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has refused to issue restraining orders to stop the inquest into the Synagogue building collapse.
Justice Ibrahim Buba refused to stop the inquest in a ruling delivered on an oral application brought by a Lagos based lawyer, Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, who is seeking to stop further sittings in the Coroner’s court, on the basis that the outcome will be biased against the Founder of the Synagogue Church, TB Joshua.
The court said it will hear the case on its merit.
On Sept. 12, a six-storey building within the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, collapsed in the Idimu area of Lagos, killing 116 people and leaving several others injured.
On Sept 26, the Lagos State Government constituted a Coroner’s Court to unravel the circumstances leading to the incidence with a view to forestall a recurrence. Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe was appointed Coroner.
The coroner has taken testimonies from some parties interested in the inquest before Lagos lawyer, Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, on Oct. 28, filed a suit, seeking an order to restrain further proceedings in the suit.
Listed as defendants in the suit are the Lagos State Government, the Attorney General of the State, Mr Ade Ipaye, and Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe.
When the case was mentioned on Tuesday, Counsel representing all the respondents, Mr Akinjide Bakare, informed the court that he had been served with the processes filed by the applicant.
He however, prayed the court for a short time to regularise his responses.
In reaction, Counsel to the applicant, Mr Nelson Okedinachi, said although he was not opposed to the adjournment, it was important for the court to issue an order, restraining the Coroner from further inquest.
He informed the court that the General Overseer of the Church, Prophet T.B Joshua, had already been summoned to appear before the Coroner on Nov. 5, adding that it was important to stop this.
According to Okedinachi, “the draconian speed at which the coroner’s court is sitting, simply means that after it summons Prophet T.B Joshua, it would make it findings and submit its report, then this entire suit will be a waste.
In response to this, Bakare informed the court that since he had been served with the processes of the applicant, it was important for him to put in his response.
He noted that the said Prophet T.B Joshua was not held in detention, and had not declined to appear before the Coroner, adding that there was no basis for the application for restraint.
“The said T.B Joshua is not held in detention and has not refused to appear before the court, so I wonder why a man will drink Panadol for another man’s headache” he said
After listening to the submissions of counsels, Justice Ibrahim Buba held that an order of interim injunction was not necessary in the situation, since the applicant was not personally affected by the inquest.
“Although, Okedinachi wants an order of interim injunction restraining T.B Joshua from appearing before the coroner, I must say that he is not a party to the suit, neither is he held in detention.
“The respondents were served with the court processes on Friday, and by the rules, they have five days to respond, but time was abridged and they accepted, and so, let us not loose sight of the issue here.
“If Ogungbeje was the party summoned before the coroner, then the issue of a restraining order will arise, but in this situation, how can I restrain the whole world.
“The applicant has not shown that he will suffer any danger if the restraining order is not granted, and so, I will hear this case on its merit on Thursday, Nov. 6, and I will not grant any restraining orders; this is the ruling of this court” he said
It would be recalled that the applicant in his suit, averred that the composition of the Coroner’s Court, was a negation of the principle of natural justice and Section 36 of the Constitution, and as such, was unconstitutional and void.
He averred that the inquest was constituted by the Lagos State Government after the agencies of the state government had indicted the Church of erecting additional structures on an already existing building without approval.
He argued that if allowed to continue, the proceedings of the Coroner inquest will occasion a miscarriage of justice, as the same Coroner would based its decision on the testimonies of the same agencies of Lagos State.
The lawyer alleged that the Lagos State Emergency Agency (LASEMA), the Lagos State Building Control Agency, and the Lagos State Fire Service, had made prejudicial reports that the building collapsed due to additional structures.
He averred that the contention of the Church that the building collapsed as a result of an aircraft hovering round the building moments before it collapsed, was ignored.
Ogungbeje averred that The Lagos State Building Control Agency went ahead to seal up the main building of the church.
The lawyer, is therefore, seeking an order nullifying the composition of the Coroner and the proceedings so far, as well as an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants jointly and severally from further proceedings.
He wants every sitting, investigation, fact finding or any action in any manner whatsoever on any facts connected to the case, to be put on hold until the suit is determined.