Pastor Temitope Joshua and the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN),
have appealed against the judgement of a Lagos high court which declined to stop the on-going coroner inquest into the September 12, 2014 collapsed building in the church.
This was made known Thursday to the coroner, Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe at the resumed sitting of the coroner court in Ikeja through their counsel, Seun Abimbola.
Abimbola had been asked by the coroner court to pick a date that the founder of the SCOAN, Pastor Joshua would appear before the court to give testimony in the matter.
Rather than pick a date, Abimbola informed Chief Magistrate Komolafe that they have filed a Notice of Appeal at the Lagos division of the Court of Appeal, against the judgment of Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja.
Justice Okunnu had declined an application filed by the trustee of SCOAN, alongside its founder.
They had prayed the court to stop the ongoing coroner’s inquest into the collapsed guest house belonging to the church.
Justice Okunnu had dismissed their application on the ground that it was premature and lacks merit.
Justice Okunnu explained that Sections 26 and 27 of the Coroner’s System Law of Lagos State 2007, empowered the coroner to summon any witness to assist him in his fact-finding mission, adding that there was nothing unusual in the summons extended to Prophet Joshua.
Justice Okunnu also declared that there was no evidence before the court to show that the coroner had been biased against the applicants.
She had therefore declined to hold that the coroner was biased.
Justice Okunnu also maintained that Chief Magistrate Komolafe as a coroner has the powers to take evidence from any witness he deemed fit and relevant to the matter on hand to enable him reach his conclusions.
“I find therefore the present application lacks merit and has failed in its entirety. It is accordingly dismissed.”
Justice Okunnu had declared that although the coroner’s court cannot be sued, Chief Magistrate Komolafe himself could be sued in his capacity as a coroner.
The trial judge stated further that the court needed to resolve the issue as to whether the coroner has acted contrary to the rules of natural justice by not granting the applicants a fair hearing, and whether he has exceeded his jurisdiction as a coroner court.
SCOAN in its suit before Justice Okunnu, brought pursuant to Order 40 Rule 5 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure Rules) 2012 and signed by one O.M Abimbola had prayed the High Court 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.
“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 are 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 has demonstrated personal interest in the subject matter and his neutrality clearly compromised.
“An order of injunction restraining coroner from taking and continuing to take evidence/proceedings on the issue of approval and construction of the collapsed building, which issues are clearly outside the scope of a coroner’s inquest.”
Meanwhile, at Thursday sitting, a Deputy Director in charge of planning and design from the Lagos State Ministry of Works, Engineer Tunde Lasoju confirmed that a physical assessment of the foundation of the collapsed guest house did not show any sign of stress.”The foundation of the collapsed guest house did not show any form of punching or sharing.”
But a witness from the Council for the Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria (COREN), Engineers Victor Oyenuga, maintained that the conclusion of the team that investigated the cause of the collapsed guest house shows that the building must have failed, as a result of undersizing of the foundation and weak columns.