Nigeria News
Synagogue: Coroner visits collapsed building site, threatens mass burial

The Coroner court put up by the Lagos State government to investigate the circumstances surrounding  the collapse of a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN,  Ikotun Lagos, yesterday visited the scene of the incident, requesting families of the victims to come for identification to avoid mass burial.

The Coroner Judge, who was corroborating a request made by the state Chief Medical Examiner, Prof. John Obafunwa for the manifest of the people in the building when it collapsed maintained that the government will be left with no option than to give the deceased mass burial if there was no proper identification.

 TB Joshua-Synagogue Church

“We want to be able to identify all the victims because those bodies will not be released to their relatives if we cannot identify them. They will be given mass burial, which is not appropriate.” He threatened.

The inquest team led by Mr Oyetade Komolafe was accompanied on the visit by the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Toyin Ayinde and the state’s Chief Medical Examiner, Prof. John Obafunwa.

The entourage which was received by the Chief Security Officer of the church, Mr Sunday Okojie, who conducted them around the scene of the incident also included Mr Akingbolahan Adeniran, Lagos State Counsel and representatives of the Nigeria Police Force, Red Cross Society and the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority.

Like he said at the opening session of the coroner proceeding, Magistrate. Komolafe maintained that his team was there to examine the scene of the incident, in order to arrive at a just conclusion.

“I said at the inaugural sitting, we are not here on a witch-hunt or to convict anybody. We are here for a fact-finding purpose and how we can ascertain the cause of the incident,” he noted.

To this end,  he directed the church to give the list of the people who lodged in the collapsed building to the Lagos State forensic team led by Obafunwa to assist in identification of the victims.

“What we are saying about the manifest is that we will need it to be submitted to the Chief Medical Officer, CMO, to identify the corpses. Also, families of victims have to come forward for samples to be taken so as to identify the bodies. Can that be made available?” he queried.

However,  Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, counsel to the church responded, “I think on the issue of identification of the corpses, we do not need any blood sample. If the families can come and identify the bodies, there is no need for blood samples.”

At this juncture, the Chief Medical Examiner, Prof. Obafunwa, handed over a formal letter requesting for the manifest from the church noting that it was needed for proper identification of the victims.

He said: “In an investigation of this nature, we need to carry out our own tests. DNA analysis will not give you a name. There is nothing wrong with what we are asking for.

“For the purpose of disaster victim identification, we will need the manifest. What we are trying to identify is for us to know who and who was in the building, it is just for that purpose. You cannot investigate a plane crash, for instance, without having the names of the passengers on the aircraft.”

Not satisfied with the request, the church lawyer maintained that DNA of all the families involved in the incident was submitted to the pathologists earlier, while reiterating the church’s readiness to cooperate with the inquest to unravel the cause of the building collapse.

“The DNA of all the families involved have been submitted as far back as two weeks ago. Our position is that families involved have submitted their DNA test results. The list (manifest) has not been asked for, so let us not give the public wrong impression. Whatever they ask for will be supplied. Let them direct it to the church and it will be done.” Lateef maintained.

On their arrival at the court, the Coroner judge reiterated that he will not hesitate to invoke the law to compel whoever refused to appear before it.

Further hearing was adjourned till Friday, October 24.

COREN to report  involved engineers

Meantime, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN, said yesterday that it would facilitate the arrest of any engineer linked with the collapsed Synagogue Church building.

Mr Kashim Ali, the President, COREN, said this in an interview  in Abuja.

“We are going to ask now that the security agencies should commence investigation because we have given them enough time.

“So, anybody, who is implicated whether you are the cause of the collapse or not, but for not reporting after you were invited by COREN, there is a penalty for that.”

“We are just allowing time for those who are grieved to come out of their grief, come out of their grief, get their acts together and be able to come to defend themselves.

“After the time has lapsed then we will hand the matter over to the security agencies to help us investigate; and if you are involved. And if anybody is involved then they would be sanctioned.

“We will always get to know the truth. But after that if criminal charges are involved the security agencies have to take that up not COREN.“

The COREN president explained that the council had placed advertisements calling on all engineering personnel related to the construction of the Synagogue Church building to report to it.

He urged the public not to hesitate to provide the council with information about the existence of building sites that did not conform with standard engineering procedures.

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