Law News
Synagogue: Let The Law Prevail

THE collapse of the six-storey building within the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Ikotun Egbe, Lagos, is a symptom of a disturbing trend in Nigeria where religious bodies carry on as if they are above the law.

 TB Joshua-Synagogue Church

This propensity, which is much more pronounced among some of the Pentecostal denominations, mainly involves the indiscriminate and unlawful abuse of building regulations, thus pitching these groups against state authorities.

Just as the dust was yet to clear in Lagos, another unapproved church building belonging to the Christ Chosen Church in Benin came tumbling down, with two people killed. There have been media reports of altercations between the Enugu State Government and the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries and also between the Ogun State Government and the Living Faith Church, owners of the Covenant University, Ota.

The SCOAN disaster would have been avoided if the Church authorities had cooperated with the relevant agency of the Lagos State Government in charge of building regulation. Several buildings within the complex had been declared as unapproved structures and orders made for work to stop. The church continued to build until this tragedy struck, claiming the lives of between 86 and 115 people, most of them visiting foreigners.

It was clearly a mark of failure on the part of both the church and the government to do the right thing. Why should government officials fold their hands when the church continued to develop buildings even after several warnings to stop? If the government had been truly up to its duties, it would have applied the necessary sanctions to make sure that the death trap was discontinued.

The laws are very explicit on steps that must be taken when buildings that are put up without adherence to proper regulations collapse. The ongoing investigation into this tragic incident should be thorough and conclusive, and anyone found culpable should be dealt with according to the law. The property should also be confiscated and the church moved to a safer area. This will serve notice to the religious groups that government will not give up its duties of maintaining the law and ensuring the safety of citizens and foreign visitors alike.

Unless investigations reveal evidence supporting terror attacks after series of aircraft over-flights, we must not fall for any attempt to divert attention and transfer culpability to non-existent aggressors. After all, aviation activities have been part of Lagos and other big cities and no building has gone down anywhere as a result.

We must use this incident to reiterate that no one is above the law, and that adherence to the rule of law is the bounden duty of all.

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