Law News
Court hears T.B. Joshua’s objection to coroner’s inquest

A Lagos High Court on Thursday commenced hearing in the objection filed by the Founder, Synagogue Church of All Nations, Prophet T.B. Joshua, against the coroner’s inquest into the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the church’s six-storey guest house.

About 116 persons, mostly South Africans, died in the September 12, 2014 tragedy.

The Lagos State Government had inaugurated the coroner’s inquest to determine the cause of the victims’ death but Joshua had asked the court to conduct a judicial review of the coroner’s inquest since it began on October 13, last year.

The prophet, through his lawyer, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, specifically asked the court to determine whether the witness summons served on him to personally appear before the coroner was not a breach of his right to fair hearing.

He also wanted Justice Latifa Okunnu to determine whether the coroner had not been extending the inquest into areas beyond his constitutional bounds.

Canvassing arguments in favour of Joshua’s application on Thursday, Fagbemi submitted that under the provision of the Lagos State Coroner’s Law, 2007, Komolafe’s inquest was limited only to the determination of what was responsible for the victims’ death “and nothing more.”

The senior lawyer stressed that the law did not empower the coroner to inquire into what was responsible for the building collapse.

Fagbemi further submitted that the witness summons served on Joshua to personally appear before the coroner was an infringement on his right to fair hearing and did not conform with sections 32 and 33 of the Lagos State Coroner’s Law, 2007.

He therefore urged the court to restrain the coroner from further acting outside his constitutional authority and to declare null and void such portions of the proceeding already conducted outside the limit.

Responding, counsel for the Lagos State Government, Mr. Afeez Owokoniran, however, maintained that the coroner had the backing of the law to embark on an extensive investigation in his mandate to determine what killed the victims.

He argued, “In order to determine the cause of death, the coroner has the latitude to investigate issues pertaining to building approval, soil testing and materials used in the construction of the collapsed building.”

Owokoniran submitted further that the coroner operated within the bounds of the law when he issued a witness summons on Joshua.

“In doing in his job, the coroner has all the powers of a magistrate to summon and compel the attendance of witnesses, including medical examiners, and require them to give evidence, produce documents or present other relevant materials,” he added.

The matter has been adjourned till February 17 for further hearing.

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