Court Defers Trial Of Synagogue Church, Engineers Till June 3

Synagogue, CourtA Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has fixed June 3 for the trial of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).

The two engineers, who constructed the collapsed six-storey guest house belonging to the church, will also be tried on the same date.

Trial was supposed to commence on Wednesday, June 1, but was stalled after the Director of Lagos State Public Prosecution, Mrs Idowu Alakija, informed the court that she had just served the proof of evidence to the defence team in court earlier in the morning.

She asked the court to stand down the matter to enable the defence team study the documents after which she would call her first witness and proceed with the trial.

However, counsel to the trustees of the Synagogue Church, Lateef Fagbemi, objected to the request for a stand down.

He asked the court to instead, adjourn proceedings for at least a day to enable the defence team study the proof of evidence and call its experts to analyse it.

The presiding judge, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, had to adjourn the trial in the interest of fair hearing, to enable the defence team more time to study the proof of evidence.

The Synagogue Church building which collapsed on September 12, 2014 in the Ikotun area of Lagos State, southwest Nigeria was said to have killed no fewer than 116 persons, most of them foreign nationals.

The registered trustees of SCOAN, the two engineers, Akinbela Fatiregun and Oladele Ogundeji, alongside their companies – Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company, and Jandy Trust Limited are being tried on 111 charges of involuntary manslaughter and failure to obtain building approval contrary to Section 41 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State.

Synagogue Building Collapse: Church’s Trustees, Engineers Arraigned For Manslaughter

SynagogueThe Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) were arraigned on Tuesday at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja over the collapse of a building belonging to the church on September 12, 2014, which led to the death of 116 persons.

Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo arraigned the defendants on Tuesday after dismissing the application filed by the second and fifth defendants, seeking to quash the charge and stay of further proceedings pending the determination of the application at the Court of Appeal.

The two engineers who constructed the collapsed building, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited were also arraigned alongside the trustees.

The Office of the Attorney General, Lagos State had filed its Information Papers since September, 2015 containing a 111-count charge against the Synagogue Trustees and the two engineers that supervised the construction of the collapsed building and their respective companies before a Lagos State High Court

The Defendants were arraigned for charges bordering on failure to obtain building approval contrary to Section 75 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State 2010, involuntary manslaughter causing death contrary to Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.

Since the charges were filed, the defendants had made attempts to stall their arraignment by filing several applications, including the instant applications which was dismissed on Tuesday by the trial Judge.

The lead counsel representing the defendants made several efforts to convince the court not to proceed with the arraignment.

A senior Nigerian lawyer representing SCOAN, Lateef Fagbemi, argued that it would be improper for the court to proceed with the arraignment, since the business of the court on Tuesday was for ruling.

While Mr E. L. Akpofure, representing Hardrock Construction Company, said he would not be able to proceed because he had just lost his mother, Mrs Titilola Akinlawon and Olalekan Ojo, who represented the third and fifth defendants, also aligned themselves with the counsel to the first defendant.

Justice Akapo, however, overruled them and ordered that the charges be read in court to the accused persons, noting that criminal trials were to be heard expeditiously in line with Section Eight of the National Judicial Policy and that there was nothing stopping him from proceeding with the arraignment.

The defendants in the suit are: the Registered Trustees of Synagogue Church of All Nation, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company, Jadny Trust Limited, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun

The representative of the first defendant [SCOAN], Mr Niyi Jegede, the fourth and fifth defendants, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun were in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges proffered against them while a plea of not guilty was recorded for the second and third defendants being corporate bodies.

The State Prosecution team led by Director, Public Prosecution [DPP] Mrs Idowu Alakija applied for the defendants, who were not corporate bodies, to be reminded in prison custody.

Based on the DPP’s application, the court ordered that the fourth and fifth defendants be remanded in Kirikiri pending trial.

The court adjourned to May 19, 20, 23, June 1, 2 and 3 for continuation of the trial.

Synagogue Collapse: Court Adjourns Suit To Prohibit TB Joshua From Appearing Before Coroner

court-on-Synagogue The Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos State capital, has adjourned the ruling on the prohibition suit initiated by the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), alongside its Founder, Prophet Temitope Joshua, till March 6.

The Court, presided over by Justice Lateefat Okunnu, adjourned to the 6th of March to rule whether or not the coroner is a juristic personality.

The Judge, who was supposed to rule on Tuesday, raised the issue of whether or not the coroner could be sued or not.

She stated the outstanding issue that needed to be clarified before she could give her ruling on the matter, noting that the councils should file their process on the issue within two days.

Meanwhile at the Synagogue coroners’ inquest going on at the Coroners Court, the Chief Security Officer of SCOAN, Sunday Okoji, gave testimony as to whether or not the Statutory respondents were at the crash site all through the period.

The coroner adjourned the suit till the March 6 for continuation of inquest.

Court Earlier Set Aside March 3, 2015 For Ruling

Meanwhile, the same court had earlier set aside March 3, 2015 as the day to deliver ruling on the prohibition suit.

The Judge arrived at the decision, shortly after lead counsel to SCOAN, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), replied on point of law to the arguments raised by lawyer to the Lagos State Government before the court.

The suit was instituted against the Lagos State Coroners Court sitting in Ikeja, and the Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, who was presiding over the court.

Specifically, SCOAN wanted the court to stay further proceedings of the inquest and suspend further actions on Joshua’s invitation to appear to give evidence before it, pending the determination of his suit against Chief Magistrate Komolafe before the High Court.

SCOAN alongside its Founder had filed the suit pursuant to Order 40 Rule 5 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure Rules) 2012 and signed by O.M Abimbola.

Certificate Controversy: Buhari’s Eligibility Suit Adjourned Until March

Gen-Muhammadu-Buhari-1
Gen Muhammadu Buhari

A Federal High Court will on March 19 hear ‎all applications, challenging the eligibility of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari, to contest in the forthcoming presidential election.

At the resumed hearing on Monday of two earlier suits filed by Chukwunweike Okafor and Donald Daunamigba, counsel to the plaintiff, Mike Ozekhome, told the court that he was willing to continue with the argument, noting that he had not been served with all processes.

After his observation, he was served with the process, but he asked the court for a short date to enable him study the process.

He further requested for accelerated hearing, pointing out that that the outcome of the case would have effect on the forthcoming elections.

But the Defence Counsel, Akin Olujimi and Lateef Fagbemi, were quick to respond that the outcome of the case could not be a condition precedent on the conduct of the election, reminding the court that there was an application requesting that the court should set aside the totality of the summon on Buhari, which had not been respond to.

The Federal High Court Judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, adjourned the case till March 19 to enable the court hear all the applications including those seeking for joinder.

There are 13 suits instituted against the APC’s presidential candidate, General Buhari, challenging his eligibility to contest in the March 28 presidential election.

The plaintiffs in the suits also argued that failure of Buhari to accompany his form CF001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with his certificates of academic qualifications, rendered him ineligible to participate in the poll.

They stressed that failure to submit the said certificate, would mean had failed to comply with the provisions of sections 131 and 318 of the Nigerian Constitution and section 31 (3) of the Electoral Act.

Desperation Of DisinformationBuhari certificate 2

Responding to the certificate controversy, the APC had dismissed claims that General Buhari was not qualified to contest in the elections.

Government College, formerly Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, which General Buhari graduated from in 1961, had released his Secondary School Certificate Examination results.

Before the certificate was released, General Buhari had described the claims as ‘desperation of disinformation’.

“I have contested elections three times and that’s the same rule by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where there is basic education qualification that you have and I was allowed to contest all these election because my certificate was in order.

“There are even individuals that wrote to the United States War College and the College answered them and its published in some of your papers .

“Really, this desperation of disinformation that is being passed around will do nobody any good because our minds are being taken away from the serial issues of corruption and incompetence by the PDP, ” the former military president said.

Synagogue Building Collapse: Court To Deliver Ruling On March 3

SynagogueLagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, presided over by Justice Lateefa Okunnu, on Thursday set aside March 3, 2015 as the day to deliver ruling on the prohibition suit initiated by the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), alongside its founder, Prophet Temitope Joshua.

The Judge arrived at the decision, shortly after lead counsel to SCOAN, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), replied on point of law to the argument raised by lawyer to the Lagos State Government before the court.

The suit was instituted against the Lagos State Coroners Court sitting in Ikeja, and the Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, who was presiding over the court.

Specifically, SCOAN wanted the court to stay further proceedings of the inquest and suspend further actions on Joshua’s invitation to appear to give evidence before it, pending the determination of his suit against Chief Magistrate Komolafe before the High Court.

SCOAN alongside its Founder had filed the suit pursuant to Order 40 Rule 5 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure Rules) 2012 and signed by  O.M Abimbola.

The suit was praying Justice Okunnu for an order of prohibition, against the Coroner’s Court of Lagos State and the presiding Magistrate Komolafe from exceeding their jurisdiction in the conduct of Coroner’s inquest into the death of unknown persons in the collapsed building within the premises of SCOAN on September 12, 2014.

According to the suit designated ID/188MJR/2014, SCOAN wanted the Lagos High Court to issue, “An order of Certiorari to quash the proceedings of the 1st and 2nd respondents in the conduct of the coroner’s inquest into the death of unknown persons in the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Ikotun Egbe, Lagos on 12th September, 2014 in suit number CR/AL/01/2014 concerning matters, issues and circumstances other than what directly caused the death of the victims and the manner of their death for having been conducted without or in excess of the statutory jurisdiction of the 1st and 2nd respondents.

“A declaration that the decision of the coroner to summon the applicants to give evidence at a time when no materials were placed before the coroner against the applicants is a breach of the applicants right to fair hearing.

“A declaration that the coroner who relied on his personal knowledge of the facts of the case is not a proper person to preside at the inquest into the death of people at the collapsed building of Synagogue Church of All Nations.

“A declaration that the coroner who relied on extraneous matters not borne out of the records to reach his conclusion that the 2nd applicant is a necessary witness when in fact is not, is in breach of the rules of natural justice and fair hearing guaranteed by the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“An order prohibiting the coroner from conducting further inquest/proceedings relating to the construction of the collapsed building which facts were clearly outside the scope of a coroner’s inquest.

“An order quashing the proceedings of the coroner’s inquest in its entirety for being conducted in breach of the rule of natural justice, likelihood of bias, and for taking proceedings clearly outside the scope of the jurisdiction of the respondent.

“An order prohibiting the respondent from insisting on the personal attendance of the 2nd applicant as such will be without or in excess of jurisdiction, unconstitutional and unlawful.

“An order of injunction to restrain the respondents as presently constituted from further conducting any inquest into the collapsed building of Synagogue Church of All Nations, as the 2nd respondent had demonstrated personal interest in the subject matter and his neutrality clearly compromised.

“An order of injunction restraining the coroner from taking and continuing to take evidence/proceedings on the issue of approval and construction of the collapsed building, which issues were clearly outside the scope of a coroner’s inquest.”

In arguing this application, SCOAN alongside its founder had told the Judge that Chief Magistrate Komolafe, who is the Coroner investigating the collapse of the guest house belonging to the church, had exceeded the jurisdiction of a Coroners Court.

The duo made the assertion through their lawyer, Fagbemi (SAN) while arguing the suit made against Chief Magistrate Komolafe at the Lagos High Court.

The Coroners Inquest was initiated by the Lagos State Government to carryout investigation into the September 12, 2014 collapse of the six-storey building which claimed the life of 116 persons.

In moving the application, Chief Fagbemi (SAN) maintained that the Lagos State Coroner’s Law 2007 only gave powers to the Coroner to determine the cause of death and to identify the body of the deceased.

The SAN further argued that taking evidence on the issues of approval and construction of the collapsed building were clearly outside the scope and jurisdiction of the Coroner’s Court.

The SAN revealed that Chief Magistrate Komolafe had been hearing evidence on such extraneous issues at the inquest which started proceedings on October 13,2014.

The senior lawyer maintained that Sections 32 and 33 of the Coroner Law does not empower the Coroner to summon on manners of persons to appear before the inquest, adding that the Coroner’s summons on Prophet Joshua to personally appear before the inquest was unconstitutional and a breach of his right to fair hearing.

He equally insisted that Chief Magistrate Komolafe had shown personal interest in the subject matter which could lead to being biased against his client.

Chief Fagbemi then prayed Justice Okunnu to grant the application and declare the Coroner proceedings null and void.

In responding, lawyer to the Lagos State Government, Afeez Owokoniran, prayed the court to throw out the suit.

According to the lawyer, the Coroner had extensive powers to investigate the cause and circumstances of death and bring his findings and recommendations to the attention of appropriate authorities.

He said, “In doing this, he has all the powers of a magistrate to summon and compel the attendance of witnesses, including medical examiners, and require them to give evidence, produce documents or present other relevant materials.

“In order to determine the cause of death, the Coroner has the latitude to investigate issues pertaining to building approval, soil testing and materials used in the construction of the collapsed building.”

Experts Demand Criminal Justice System Reform

Criminal justiceSome Nigerian legal experts have called for a reform of the nation’s criminal justice system to enable judges serve justice speedily to both the rich and the poor in the society.

According to the experts who spoke at a forum in Abuja during the week, the current criminal justice system favours the rich who commit huge financial crimes as against the poor.

It was a gathering of legal experts to identify with their colleague, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who had written a book, “Oiling The Wheels of Justice In Nigeria”.

As the title suggests, the experts analysed the structure of Nigeria’s justice system and its impact on the nation’s democracy.

According to Professor of Law at the University of Jos, who was also the Keynote Presenter, Joash Amupitan, reforming Nigeria’s criminal justice system would not only speed up justice administration, it would also reduce impunity.

A reform in the system, according to the group of professionals, would help to prevent what they called “time buying technique” often adopted by the rich to escape justice.

In the last three years, efforts have been made to reform the judiciary, especially in relations to electoral matters.

Experts say such reforms which have sped up hearing in the election tribunals should also be introduced in criminal procedures.

Synagogue Building Collapse Inquest Begins

building collapseThe Coroners inquest into the September 12, Synagogue Church Building Collapse began today at the Lagos High Court premises in Ikeja.

Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe who presided over the inaugural sitting of the inquest today, assured the parties who turned up that the court would be fair as it was only on a fact finding mission and not out prosecute anyone.

The Synagogue Church of all nations and its Founder, Prophet TB Joshua was represented at the inquest by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Lateef Fagbemi & Mr Olalekan Ojo while Mr Akingbolahan Adeniran represented the Lagos State Government.

The Nigeria Police, Nigerian Red Cross and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) were also represented by lawyers at the inquest today.

In his address to the lawyers and witnesses, Magistrate Komolafe outlined the procedure that would be adopted in the fact finding process. He urged all parties to front load and submit their testimonies, list of witnesses and other documents to the courts registry before sending same to other parties.

The Magistrate also asked members of the public with useful information that would assist the inquest to come forward and testify

He pleaded with the families of the South African victims to make available their blood samples to the pathologists for easy identification of the victims even as he urged the South African Embassy in Nigeria to send its representatives to the inquest.

The Magistrate has however warned that a summon would be issued on any witness who fails to appear before the tribunal to make presentation.

Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele reports that the Coroner and the parties to the inquest have agreed and made plans to visit the synagogue church on Thursday to see the scene of the incident.

Outside the court, a few synagogue church members, some physically challenged staged a peaceful protest. They carried placards bearing inscriptions asking that their prophet be left alone.

On the 26th of September, the Lagos State Government had set up the coroners inquest to ascertain the cause of the Synagogue church building collapse which left about 115 people dead.

Most of the victims of the collapsed building were of South Africa nationality.

Supreme Court Stops PDP’s Planned Campaign in Anambra

Picture of a Gavel.The Supreme Court in Nigeria has stopped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from going ahead with its planned flag-off campaign for the November 16 governorship election in Anambra State.

Vice President, Namadi Samabo was to lead the Tony Nwoye flag-off campaign in Awka on Saturday.

The appeal was filed by Nicholas Ukachukwu challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt which affirmed Nwoye as the candidate of the PDP for the November polls.

After extracting an undertaking from counsel to the PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Nwoye, the court presided over by Justice Ibrahim Muhammed Tanko, directed the counsel to advise their clients appropriately until Monday November 4 when the court would hear the appeal.

The Supreme Court also stopped Mr. Andy Ubah from joining in the appeal seeking to decide who the authentic flag bearer of the PDP in Anambra State is, between Tony Nwoye and Nicholas Ukachukwu.

Andy Ubah had through his counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, brought an application seeking to be joined as an interested party in appeal between Tony Nwoye and Nicholas Ukachukwu which will be coming up before the court on Monday.

Court Denies Babalakin’s Plea To Sit Outside Dock

A Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo today denied the chairman of Bi-Courtney, Mr. Wale Babalakin his plea to sit outside the dock during the resumption of his trial over money laundering.

Justice Onigbanjo also ordered Mr. Babalakin to consolidate into one, two applications filed seeking to quash the charges against him.

Mr. Babalakin and 4 others are facing a 27-count charge of allegedly laundering about N4.7 billion on behalf of the convicted former governor of Delta State, James Ibori under the guise of purchasing a Challenger Jet Aircraft.

The judge’s ruling followed arguments from Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, the lead counsel to Mr. Babalakin, and Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, the counsel to the EFCC.

When the proceedings commenced, Mr. Fagbemi (SAN) made a peculiar request asking presiding Justice Onigbanjo to allow his client leave the dock and sit in or near the bar.

The counsel quoted Section 210 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos, 2011. The section provides that “where a defendant appears before the court on a summons, he may be required to enter the dock, stand or sit adjacent to it as may be ordered by the court”.

But the counsel to the EFCC, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Jacobs, opposed the request. For him, the section did not refer to sitting in the outer or inner bar with the other lawyers. The prosecution stressed that justice must be seen to be done to all and not to the status of one.

Justice Onigbanjo, however, held that the section of the law refers to a defendant who appears before the court on a summons and not one like Mr. Babalakin who appeared before the court on information.

The defendant was, therefore, ordered to remain in the dock.

On the arguments on the applications filed by Mr. Babalakin to quash the charges against him, Justice Onigbanjo noted that there were two of such applications seeking the same objective.

While the defence counsel, Mr. Fagbemi insisted that they had different grounds, the prosecution countered by saying that it was an abuse of court process and a move aimed at delaying the trial. He, therefore, urged the court to strike out one of the applications.

The arguments went back and forth for almost 30 minutes on the propriety of taking the two applications seeking the same relief.

After listening to the arguments and the submissions of other lawyers in the matter, Justice Onigbanjo ordered the defendants to consolidate their applications.

He then adjourned the case till the 27th of March.

Sylva seeks court’s permission for medical trip

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja will on Tuesday, June 27th 2012 decide if it will allow former governor of Bayelsa state Mr. Timipre Sylva travel outside Nigeria for medical care.

Mr Sylva, through his counsel; Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, tendered medical documents on Monday, asking the court to allow him travel to South Africa on health reasons.

He argued that for the court to have granted bail to his client, the court knows that he (Mr Sylva) will make himself available when his trial commences.

The counsel noted that the application to travel abroad, is a classic example of the constitutional principle of the right to life and freedom and he also urged the court to take particular notice that the application borders on the well being of his client because “only a living being can stand trial in any court of law” he said.

But counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr. Oghenevu Otemu objected to the application.

He told the court that the defendant has not sufficiently shown the court why he should be granted the leave for a medical trip to South Africa.

Mr. Otemu also argued that Mr. Sylva did not give details of the kind of ailment he is suffering from, adding that a Nigerian hospital cannot cater for his health needs.

He further argued that granting the application of the accused person will affect ongoing investigations by the anti-graft agency.

He therefore urged the court to refuse the application.

Listening to the two parties, presiding Judge, Justice Adamu Bello fixed 27th of June 2012 to deliver his ruling on the application.

The former governor, who is standing trial on a six count charge of diverting N4.45 billion belonging to Bayelsa state for his personal use, is on bail in the sum of N100 million, one surety who owns a landed property within the jurisdiction of the Federal Capital Territory.

Justice Adamu Bello also ordered Sylva to deposit his entire travel document with the Chief Registrar and also ensure that he doesn’t  leave the country without permission from the court.

A tentative trial date has been fixed for September 19th 2012 for trial to commence.