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Synagogue Building Collapse: Prosecution Witness Disallowed From Giving Evidence

The trial of two engineers charged with gross negligence in the collapsed seven-storey guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) took a new twist on Monday as a prosecution witness, Mr Adebayo Olayinka, was prevented from giving evidence.

Olayinka was prevented from giving evidence because his witness statement was not frontloaded before the court by the prosecution.

Akinbela Fatiregun and Oladele Ogundeji alongside their companies — Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Ltd and the trustees of SCOAN — are  facing a 111-count charge of gross negligence and criminal manslaughter.

The Sept. 12, 2014 collapse of the guest house caused the death of 116 persons, 85 of whom were South Africans.

Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the defence lawyer, who represented the trustees of SCOAN while objecting said:”In the list of eight witnesses being brought before the court by the state, only three witnesses have their statements frontloaded.

“The statement of this witness was not frontloaded by the prosecution and as a result, we cannot proceed with the witness because his statement is not in the proof of evidence.”

Mrs Idowu Alakija, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), however, objected to Fagbemi’s submission.

She said:” The fact that the statement of a witness is not in the proof of evidence does not preclude him from giving evidence as was held in the case of Fashe vs the State.

“The statement of the witness here is as an expert witness as is contained in Sections 183 and 197 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law.”

Lawyer to Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company,  Mr E.L Akpofure (SAN), said frontloading was needed to be done to ensure that the defence prepared adequately for cross-examination.

“The prosecution should file additional proof of evidence because we need to be abreast of the evidence the witness is going to give to enable us prepare adequately for cross-examination.

“Your Lordship should stall his testimony temporarily until additional proof of evidence is filed by the DPP,” Akpofure said.

Mrs Titi Akinlawon (SAN), lawyer to Fatiregun said the information before the court should contain proof of evidence — the evidence one should give.

“The prosecution has failed to comply with the provisions of Section 251 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law.”

Mr Olalekan Ojo, counsel to Ogundeji, in his submission, added that “the substance of our objection  are that the defendants are to be tried on an incomplete information.

“According to Olowo v the state, no defendant should be tried on an incomplete information.”

In his ruling, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo obliged the defence and ordered that the prosecution should frontload all their witnesses’ statement before the next date of adjournment.

The case was adjourned to June 1 and June 3 for continuation of trial. (NAN)



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