The 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.