We Observed Aircraft Flying Low Over Synagogue Building Before Collapse, Police Tell Court

 

Synagogue
File photo of the scene of the Synagogue Church building which collapsed in 2014.

 

The Synagogue Church of All Nations has opened its defence on a charge of building without approval brought against it by the Lagos State.

An Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Alaba Yahaya Haruna, who testified on Friday, told a Lagos High Court hearing the case that one of his patrol teams observed an aircraft flying low over the building located in the Ikotun Egbe area just before it collapsed.

Haruna, an Area Commander of the Eastern Ports Command, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the Ikotun Egbe Police Station, Lagos, at the time the building collapsed.

The registered trustees of the church are facing trial alongside two engineers who built the building: Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited.

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They are facing 110 counts of involuntary manslaughter following the collapse of one of the Church buildings in September 2014, which led to the death of 116 people.

Led in evidence by the Church’s counsel, Oluseye Diyan, the witness relived the incident.

“On that fateful day on September 12, 2014 at about 12:30 hours, there was a radio communication from the police control room at Ikeja that they were receiving calls from the public of an aircraft flying at low altitude over the church. I was directed by the Area Command to confirm the incident and monitor the aircraft’s activities.

“I wanted to go out and direct my men to watch out for the aircraft when I received another report of an airplane flying at a very low altitude. I went outside but I couldn’t see it, by that time it had gone. I received a call later from Inspector Lucky Ugbaja, stationed at the church that one of the church’s buildings had collapsed,” Haruna explained.

According to him, the radio room had earlier called the Police Airport Command to confirm whether it was carrying out any activity in the SCOAN vicinity.

Haruna said when he arrived the church’s premises there was a large crowd and the few policemen there were trying to manage the situation. More onlookers kept trooping in and the crowd spilled to the roads outside the church, causing serious traffic gridlock.

“We were overwhelmed,” Haruna told the judge, adding that he called for more policemen, which was provided.

He said his men cordoned off the scene in an attempt to restrict entrance to only those who could assist the church members and other worshippers in the rescue operation.

“Those I met there were SCOAN worshippers, they were bringing out so many people from under the rubble. Most of the victims were alive. Some were injured, some were not.

“Later, the Red Cross, Life Savers, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) arrived and joined us in the rescue,” Haruna added.

The witness stated that the LASEMA General Manager complained of difficulty in gaining access to the scene of the collapse because of the crowd and that the journalists in his entourage were denied access, following which he apologised and ordered his men to let the journalists in.

He said the rescue mission lasted about seven days.

During Cross Examination by the prosecution counsel, Babajide Martins, the police officer insisted that he could not recall any instance when LASEMA officials, or the then Commissioner for Physical Planning, Toyin Ayinde, were prevented by the church members from gaining access to the collapse site.

“Apart from the LASEMA GM who said he had a Herculean task passing through the crowd, others had no problems passing through.

When asked why he concluded that the rescuers were church members or worshippers, Haruna said “commonsense suggests that they were.”

Following the prosecution’s application for an adjournment, Justice Lawal-Akapo adjourned further proceedings till June 28.

Synagogue Building: T.B. Joshua Absent At Coroner’s Inquest

T.B JoshuaThe coroner’s inquest into the collapsed Synagogue building continued on Wednesday at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja and the founder of the Synagogue Chruch of All Nations, Prophet T.B Joshua failed to appear.

The contractor of the collapsed building, who had also been summoned to testify alongside the church founder also failed to show up.

Two weeks ago, the coroner, Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, had summoned both men to appear before the inquest to give information on what they know about the collapse with a view to helping the inquest determine the cause and forestall a recurrence.

The coroner had ordered the court baliff to serve the witness summons to appear on both men.

But counsel to the church, Mr Olalekan Ojo, informed the coroner that both men were yet to be personally served with the witness summons.

Mr Ojo said he was volunteering the information to the coroner to prevent a public misconception that the Prophet TB Joshua had dishonoured the court by not appearing after he had been served.

He also explained that the prophet, being the chief mourner, has not been available because he was contacting the families of victims who lost their lives in the September 12 incident.

A hundred and sixteen people were said to have died In the incident.

The counsel to the church also said that the collapsed building contractor  had not been served because the court did not have his contact information.

After listening to this explanation, the coroner sought to be guided on why the summons could not be served on the counsel especially in accordance with Section 5 of the Magistrate Civil Procedure Rules, 2009.

The counsel however refused to accept service insisting that service of witness summons through counsel was not provided for within the law.

The coroner has however reiterated that Prophet TB Joshua must appear before the inquest. He said that the court would do the needful to ensure that the prophet was served. He also appealed to the counsel and the Chief Security officer of the Synagogue Church to assist the court in doing this, failing which the court may be forced to use the police and bring the full wrath of the law to bear.

As for the building contractor, the coroner asked the church counsel to help with getting his contact details to enable service on him. The lawyer obliged but pleaded for time to consult and get the necessary information and the coroner gave him till Friday to provide the information.

The General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu has however testified before the inquest. He told the coroner that rescue efforts were initially impeded because of some resistance his team faced while trying to access the scene of the collapsed building.

The LASEMA GM also blamed the Police for not being able to control the crowd that had gathered at the scene of the incident.

He said that his team succeeded in recovering 86 dead bodies with 131 people rescued alive. The bodies rescued, he says, were not disjointed.

Don’t Blame T.B Joshua For Synagoue Building Collapse – S.African Survivor Warns

Anthony Van Der BylA South African eye-witness, Anthony Van Der Byl, who was at the scene when the Synagogue building collapsed, has warned that people should not blame the leader of the church, T.B Joshua, for the incident but rather, they should investigate the “strange aircraft” which was captured hovering around the building.

The Founder and General Overseer of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Temitope Joshua, popularly referred to as T.B Joshua, had linked the collapse of the six storey building within the premises of the church headquarters in Lagos, to a “strange aircraft” which he said hovered around the building before it collapsed.

Byl, who lost his wife to the accident, narrated the events leading to the collapse, noting that there was no warning that such a thing would happen.

Byl said he and his wife had been about to eat lunch, before the building collapsed. “We were in the dining room on the ground floor; As we were talking, all of a sudden, I just noticed that the walls on the opposite side broke out.

“It just took about three seconds and then the whole building came on top of us.”

He noted that there was no warning as the entire building came crashing down. None of the pillars had broken off and the building did not tilt to any side.

“Many people all over the world, even the reports in South Africa are trying to point fingers at the structure (the building, how it was built, what material was being used, the building)” he said, adding that he had seen the materials used in building the structure, before the collapse.

“It was top quality material, including the steel”, he insisted, stating that “no one of the news reporters is talking about the footage, that’s been sent to them by the Prophet, on the plane that was hovering around, flying very low.

“No one is talking about that plane”, he argued, urging the public to “stop putting the blame on the prophet.”

He further claimed that the building collapsed as though dynamites had been placed at all corners of the building and detonated.

Byl, who was discharged from the hospital on Sunday, noted that he was yet to see his wife’s corpse as the search process and the different mortuaries was “tormenting”.

According to him, DNA experts from South Africa are working to identify his wife and the other bodies.

He however noted that he had been miraculously healed by T.B Joshua who had touched all his wounds. “A miracle happened. My wounds instantly healed by the power of God,” he said.

Van Der Byl, made these comments via a telephone interview on Channels Television’s Saturday breakfast programme.

3 Dead, 5 Rescued in Benin Church Building Collapse

Church BuildingIt was a tragic day  as three people have been confirmed dead after a church building collapsed in Benin City on Friday.

The one-storey building, belonging to Christ Chosen Church Of God, collapsed at about 2pm in the Erhunse area of the city.

About 9 people were said to be demolishing the building, following the relocation of the church to a new structure, when it caved in, trapping the workers inside.

Speaking at the scene of the incident, the Commissioner of Police, Edo State Command, said that he got an anonymous call which prompted his quick intervention as an irate crowd threatened to set ablaze what was left of the property.

Synagogue: South African Relatives Condemn Inadequate Information As Rescue Ends

SynagogueMany anxious relatives are besieging the OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, hoping to see their loved ones return safely from Lagos after the Synagogue church building collapse last Friday.

However, for some it is a very frustrating wait as they complain that they are not getting any information about what has happened to them.

Channels Television Correspondent in South Africa, who was at the airport in Johannesburg early Thursday morning, spoke to some relatives who complained bitterly.

A team of Rescue Response experts from South Africa have joined the Nigerian Government efforts to manage the crisis.

SA officials say 67 South Africans died in the incident and many still unaccounted for.

Meanwhile, back in Nigeria, rescue operation at the site of the collapsed 6-storey guest house belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations has ended on Thursday.

A combined team of the National and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency told journalists that there was no more trace of dead victims.

They revealed that the second phase of data collation and identification of victims has commenced.

The total final death figures released by the agencies is put at 80 with 131 survivors.

South African President, Jacob Zuma , said at least 67 South Africans died in the Friday’s accident at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos and has described it as one of the worst tragedies in South Africa’s recent history.

The collapse occurred when three extra storeys were being added to the existing two of a guest house in the church compound.

Led by the charismatic Prophet T.B. Joshua, the pentecostal church attracts a global following of Christians who believe Joshua is able to perform miracles including curing the ill and raising the dead.

Full Text: President Zuma’s Statement On South Africans In Synagogue Collapsed Building

Fellow South Africans,

I am greatly saddened to announce that 67 South Africans died and scores of others sustained injuries, after a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed on Friday, 12 September 2014, in Lagos, in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

This is a particularly difficult time for South Africa. Not in the recent history of our country have we had this large number of our people die in one incident outside the country.

Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues that have lost their loved ones in this heart-breaking tragedy. The whole nation shares the pain of the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who have lost their loved ones. We are all in grief.

As we mourn this sudden and tragic death of our fellow compatriots, I have directed the relevant Government departments and entities to act with the utmost urgency to ensure that we facilitate the movement of relevant family members to Nigeria to identify the bodies of their loved ones and to ensure that we repatriate the remains as soon as possible under the circumstances.

I would like to take this opportunity also to thank all family members and friends who have provided information to Government, which information has assisted the South African High Commission in Nigeria in its efforts to locate our fellow citizens.

I would also like to commend all affected families for their patience and resolve during this very painful period.

On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, I would like to thank the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for their support during this difficult time. We also send our sincere condolences to the people of Nigeria and all other nations affected by this tragedy.

I would like to assure all affected families that the Government will provide all the necessary support.

Government will keep the public informed of developments around this tragedy.

May the souls of the departed compatriots rest in peace.

I thank you.

Issued by: the Presidency

Pretoria

Website: www.thepresidency.gov.za

Synagogue Building: Death Toll Rises To 60 As Woman Walks Out Alive

Synagogue building debris.The death toll of the collapsed building in the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos has risen to 60, as a 45 year old woman was rescued alive from the debris after four days.

Information provided by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) showed that 131 persons have been rescued from the rubble.

The woman, whose nationality has not been revealed, was found alive at about 2:00am with only minor injuries.

Meanwhile, the standard organisation of Nigeria has begun investigation into the materials used for the construction of the building, with iron rods and sand stones collected for laboratory test.

Earlier report had put the death toll at 45.

The building which was under construction before it collapsed on Friday afternoon, was also being used as a guest house for church members and visitors, especially foreigners.

As at the time of the collapse, people were living in the building.

An investigative panel would be set up as soon as the rescue and recovery phase is over, including the GM of LASEMA, the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Physical Planning, Ministry of Health, and all other stakeholders.

 

Building Collapse: Construction Stakeholder Calls On Professionals To Help Industry

Kunle AwoboduThe President of the Building Collapse Prevention Guild, Kunle Awobodu, on Monday called on professionals in the industry to help ensure that proper standards are maintained by construction workers and builders, across the nation.

Mr Awobodu, who appeared as a guest on Sunrise Daily, said the government did not have sufficient hands to deal with some of the major issues, which lead to cases of building collapse, including the recent collapse of a building within the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, in Lagos.

“This was bound to happen,” he said, noting that government agents in charge of monitoring building constructions could not have penetrated the church as it was secluded.

He also decried the resistance of the church members against members of the guild and their refusal to let them enter the premises, after the collapse of the building.

Asked what the efforts of the guild were in ensuring the integrity of the structure, before the building collapsed, Mr Awobodu said: “In this society of today, so many people take laws into their hands and they don’t follow due process when it comes to procuring their building”.

He noted that the guild’s assignment was to sensitise people to appreciate the danger of handling construction recklessly.

“If you have to embark on structural integrity test, there are so many building in Lagos that need to be tested.”

“For instance, government officials who are in charge of monitoring per se, do not easily have access to military establishment, the police compound and some of these religious bodies’ compounds. Like Synagogue for instance. The place is well policed.”

He highlighted poor workmanship, use of substandard materials as some of the popular causes of building collapse.

“In the area of sub-standard materials, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria set-up a six man task force to work with Building Collapse Prevention Guild because of our wide structure, majorly in Lagos now.”

Mr Awobodu noted that the guild had visited several building sites to ensure that builders were following stipulated laws, to prevent collapse.

He, however, disclosed that “the government itself does not have sufficient staff strength to handle the complaints and this could be discouraging. For instance, the coordinators and secretaries of BCPG under mainland cell discovered some of the buildings that were not being properly constructed.

“This was brought to the attention of our collaborators. They came there repeatedly, sealed the building but somehow, the people will continue with the work. It was quite discouraging”.

He also hinted that there may be a lack of political will to ensure that all building constructions not according to standard, were stopped.

Awobodu noted that the guild was making plans to set up neighbourhood watch to monitor such cases, as many construction works continue even after the sites has been sealed off by government agents.

“A place like Lagos is so vast that as you are solving one problem here, another problem has emerged. So this assignment requires a lot of committed people. People who will not compromise and that is what we are building through the guild.”

Fashola Says Synagogue Church Collapse Was Unfortunate

fashola_at_Synagogue_Church_of_all_nation
The Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, on Sunday visited the site of the collapsed building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Ikotun Egbe, expressing sadness at the loss of life.

He further described the incident as very unfortunate, as findings showed the building may not have approved plan.

While commiserating with the General Overseer of the Church, Prophet Temitope Joshua, who came to meet him at the site of the collapsed structure, Governor Fashola, however, directed that the staff of the Church should give way for the rescue workers to be able to carry out the job of evacuating the debris and rescuing possible victims still trapped under the collapsed building.

The Governor, who was received at the site by the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Town Planner Olutoyin Ayinde, told Prophet Joshua that the presence of the church members was hampering rescue operations.

“What you need to understand now is that this place is now an accident scene and so all your staff must leave this place. We need to take control of this place and let people who are trained to do this job to do so.Fashola_At_Synagogue_Church_of_All_Nation1

“We understand that this is an unfortunate incident, we understand their sense of sympathy and compassion. But let them allow those who are trained to do the job take over and do the job; that is their training and it won’t make sense if they are getting in each other’s way,” he said.

The Governor further explained that after the emergency workers had finished their work, it would be easier for any staff of the Church, whether an engineer or a medical personnel, whom the General Overseer wishes to be on the site with the emergency workers for the purpose of taking records, to join them.

“When we finish, if you have any person, whether an engineer or a medical person you wants to be on the site with them, working with them to know what they are taking there, then it is easier; they can report to you and then report to me. But we can’t continue rescue operations with your men hanging around here,” Governor Fashola told Prophet Joshua.

Also at the site to receive the Governor were the Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed and the General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, (LABSCA), Mrs Kafayat Animashaun-Odunayo among other top government officials.

T.B Joshua Blames “Strange Aircraft” For Collapsed Synagogue Building

T.B JoshuaThe Founder and General Overseer of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Temitope Joshua, popularly referred to as T.B Joshua, has linked the collapse of a building within the premises of the church headquarters in Lagos, to a “strange aircraft” which he said hovered around the building before it collapsed.

While briefing journalists on the incident on Saturday, the pastor was said to have provided a video evidence, showing a flying aircraft, to back his claim.

In the said video, a plane was seen flying over the collapsed guest house belonging to the church at four different times, between 11:30 am and 11:54 am – on Friday morning. The building collapsed at about 1pm, on the same day.

According to the pastor, the said aircraft contributed to the incident, which led to the death of at least 40 persons.

He further alleged that he was the target of the hovering jet.

“Immediately I left the prayer room (which is a 10-minute drive from the church) for the church, I got a call that a jet was hovering over the prayer room but as I finished bathing and moved to the prayer room, I got another call that the jet has moved to the church and that was it,” Mr. Joshua said.

“Members cannot be the target, the easier way to stop this church is to get the head and from my explanation, you know the truth,” he added.

Mr Joshua has called on security agents to study the video evidence, a CCTV footage, and investigate the incident.