Law News
Synagogue’s engineers ask court to quash coroner’s verdict

A Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned till August, 3, 2015, to hear two separate suits seeking to quash the coroner’s verdict on the September 12, 2014 Synagogue Church Of All Nations building collapse.

The suits, numbered FHC/L/CS/1095/15 and FHC/L/CS/1096/15, were filed by the two structural engineers to whom the collapsed six-storey building was contracted, Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, respectively.

The Lagos coroner, Mr. Oyetade Komolafe, who conducted an inquest into the deaths of the 116 persons that perished in the accident, had on July 8, 2015 indicted Ogundeji and Fatiregun of criminal negligence and recommended them for criminal prosecution by Lagos State.

Upon the receipt of the coroner’s verdict, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, last week disclosed the readinesss of the state to implement the coroner’s verdict including filing criminal charges against the church and the two engineers.

Ogundeji and Fatiregun, through their lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, however, appeared on Wednesday before Justice Mohammed Idris with ex parte applications seeking to restrain the police from inviting or arresting them for questioning.

Ojo, while seeking the protection of the court for the engineers, disclosed that the police had gone after them, claiming that their constitutional rights to dignity and personal liberty, enshrined in sections 34 and 35 of the constitution, were at stake as they could no longer move about freely.

The lawyer added that the police had visited the home of Ogundeji, saying that when they did not see him they arrested and detained his brother-in-law.

As for Fatiregun, Ojo said the police went to his office in Ikeja on July 16 to arrest him but he was not around. He was, however, said to have voluntarily gone to the Police Station following which he was arrested and detained and asked to make a written statement regarding the role that his company, Hardrock Engineering Construction Limited, played in the collapsed SCOAN building.

Ojo said the move to arrest the engineers on July 16 followed the fundamental rights enforcement action that they filed against the respondents on July 15, challenging the coroner’s verdict.

He said arresting the engineers in the face of the pending suits would occassion injustice, adding that they had raised serious issues awaiting determination by the court.

Following Ojo’s argument, the judge ordered all the parties to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the applicants’ motions on notice.

He adjourned till August 3, 2015, for hearing.

The respondents in the suits are the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, the Attorney General of Lagos State and the coroner, Mr. Oyetade Komolafe.

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