Contractors indicted in the September 12, 2014 collapse of a six-storey building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Messrs. Oladele Ogundele and Akinbola Fatiregun, have told a Lagos High Court in Ikeja that the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice for Lagos State flouted court order by charging them to court.
The contractors, through their counsel, Chief E. L Akpofure (SAN) and Mrs. Titilola Akinlawon (SAN), told Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, the presiding judge, that an order granted by Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Ikoyi stopping their arraignment was defied by the state government.
The counsels submitted that “the order of Justice Buba was that their arraignment should be put on hold pending the decision of the Court of Appeal.”
Justice Buba had given an order restraining the Police and the Attorney General, either by themselves, officers and/or agents acting on their behalf, from prosecuting or proceeding with the prosecution of the engineers on the basis of the Coroner verdict pending the determination of the appeal against the ruling of the Federal High court.
They argued that the order is still subsisting. They noted that the State ought not to file charges against them, nor not even ask the court to grant an order of substituting service before a Lagos High court.
“The manner of service by way of substitution is spelled out by the law. So carrying out such service in the manner they did is a nullity. “
Responding to their submission, the Director of Public Prosecution(DPP), Mrs Idowu Alakija told the court that they have filed responses to their applications, dated January 22,2016. She stated that the order of substituted service was brought in compliance with the law and the service was effected properly.
She argued that the option left for the applicants/respondents is to file an appeal in respect of the order of the court.
Also, on the submission that Justice Ibrahim Buba of Federal High Court has restrained the AG from prosecuting them, Alakija argued that the order of Justice Buba cannot stop the court proceeding.
According to her, the proceeding had commenced in the court before the order sought to restrain the AG from prosecuting them was granted by the Justice Buba. The order cannot stop the proceeding.
She referred the court to Section 350 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State 2011, and posited that the information was not filed based on the verdict of coroner inquest.
Also, she cited Section 211 of the 1999 Constitution upon which AG derives his power to institute and continued with criminal proceedings.
“The 4th and 5th defendants are facing 110 count charge for Involuntary Manslaughter. The prosecution had initiated the proceeding against the 4th and 5th defendants via an information dated 11th September, 2015.
“While the prosecution was awaiting the assignment of the case to a trial judge, the 4th and 5th defendants filed an application for enforcement of their Fundamental Human rights and other ancillary orders praying Hon Justice Buba to restrain the Attorney General, the Police etc., from investigating and/or prosecuting them on the basis of the verdict and recommendations of the Coroner which inquired into the cause and circumstances surrounding the collapse of 1st defendant’s building leading to death of 116 persons.”
It would be recalled that Justice Lawal-Akapo had on December 2015, ordered the Lagos State government to serve the defendants through substituted means after several attempts to serve them was not successful.
After listening to their arguments, justice Lawal-Akapo therefore adjourn ruling till February 8, 2016.