The Coroner probing the September 12 Synagogue building collapse, Magistrate O.A. Komolafe, has dismissed an application seeking a temporary suspension of the inquest.
Komolafe, while dismissing the application, described it as an abuse of court processes.
The Founder of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations, Prophet T.B. Joshua, filed the application asking Komolafe to put on hold further inquisition into the cause of death of the victims of the collapsed building.
No fewer than 116 persons lost their lives while several others sustained varying degrees of injuries in the tragic incident.
Joshua’s application for stay of proceedings dated November 11, 2014 came on the heels of an application he had filed before a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja.
In the said application before Justice Lateefat Okunnu, Joshua asked for a judicial review of the coroner’s proceedings, which began on October 13.
Among others, he had asked the High Court to determine whether the witness summons served on him to appear before the coroner to give testimony was not a violation of his right.
He further contested that the coroner had been extending his inquisitions into areas beyond its statutory purview.
According to Joshua’s lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, the duty of the coroner was limited to determining what killed the victims of the collapsed building and nothing more.
Ojo argued that it was beyond the scope of the coroner to delve into the questions of what was responsible for the collapse of the building itself.
According to Ojo, it was not the duty of the coroner to inquire into issues bordering on building approval, soil and/or material tests of the collapsed building.
He had therefore asked the coroner to suspend further inquisitions till when Justice Okunnu would rule on the issues raised.
Ruling on Joshua’s application on Wednesday, Komolafe held that it was an abuse of court processes.
The Coroner said that since there were no parties such as applicants and respondents or plaintiffs and defendants in the coroner’s court but only witnesses and interested parties, Joshua had no premise upon which to bring the application for stay of proceedings.
Komolafe added that granting such request would amount to him acting beyond his statutory power.
The Coroner held further that the application for stay of proceeding did not conform with Order 40 Rule 6 of the Lagos State Civil Procedural Rules, 2012.
The coroner upheld the argument of Lagos State Government that filing an application before a higher court did not automatically amount to an order to stay proceedings at the lower court.
Komolafe held, “From the order made by the High Court of Lagos State, there is no part wherein it was stated that the proceedings of the Coroner should be stayed as provided for under Rule 40 Order 6, paragraph (a) of Lagos State Civil Procedural Rule, 2012.
“It is for this reason of avoiding this kind of abuse of processes of the court that the lawmakers provided for Order 40 Rule 6, paragraph (a) of the High Court of Lagos State Civil Procedural Rules, 2012 for cases of judicial review.”
Komolafe held that if Justice Okunnu had intended to give an order to restrain the proceedings of the Coroner Court, she would have done it at the point when she gave Joshua the leave to ask for a judicial review of Coroner’s inquest.
He, therefore, adjourned till Friday, December 12, 2014 to proceed with the inquest.