Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) has stated that the church cannot be indicted for the collapse of a building, which took place on its premises on September 12, last year, and resulted in the death of about 116 persons, arguing that ab initio it ensured that the building construction had been contracted out to thoroughbred engineers.
The church, which made the submission yesterday while delivering its final written address before the Coroner’s Court, sitting in Ikeja and presided over by Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, stressed that the said engineers were certified members of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI).
Hence “the building collapsed is in the court of Nigerian engineers, and never the church,” it submitted. Counsel for SCOAN, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, who made these declarations posited further that the testimonies given by a number of experts witnesses subpoenaed to give evidence during the factfinding exercise lacked probative value, as a result of which the court may not rely on them to arrive at its final verdict. According to him, for example, the evidence given by way of an investigative report by Engr. (Dr.) Victor Oyenuga of COREN, was not signed, hence “it was a useless exercise, on which the court cannot rely,” Ojo maintained.
He added also that the evidence of Engr. Oreoluwa Fadayomi, of the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) and Deputy President of the Nigerian Institute of Engineers, was only based on suspicion and hence could not be relied on as useful expert evidence. As for the testimony of Chief Medical Examiner for Lagos State, Professor John Obafunwa, Ojo argued that his focus was merely on the cause of the death of the deceased and not the structural defects or otherwise, which may have caused the building collapse, stressing therefore that Obafunwa’s also lacked probative value.
Insisting on the position of the church as to the cause of the building collapse, Ojo maintained, “External forces are a possibility as to the collapse of the building.” On her part, counsel for Lagos State Government, while delivering her final submission, urged the court to be guided by section 40 of the Coroner’s Law of Lagos State. According to her, the law provides for the raison d’être of the court itself, saying it includes, “Finding out who the deceased are, when, where and how the deceased met their death.”