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Synagogue Church Collapse: Witness’ Absence Stalls Trial

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Absence of the first witness of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Lagos Friday stalled opening of its defence in the ongoing trial of the church’s board of trustees over their alleged culpability in the collapsed building which occurred Friday, September 12, 2014.

No fewer than 116 people including foreign worshipers were killed in the sad event.

Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of an Igbosere High Court, Lagos, however, fixed May 10 for the church to open its defence.

The church was scheduled to open its defence in a one-count charge of building without approval – slammed on it by the Lagos State Government following the dismissal of its no-case submission.

However, counsel to the trustees, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), told the court that the witness, who was not named, was “unavailable” in spite of being served a subpoena to appear in court.

Fagbemi argued that it was necessary to call the witness first because he would “lay the groundwork.”

“We are to open our defence today. We prepared a subpoena that was served but the witness is not around because he was transferred to Port Harcourt; he used to be at Ikotun in Egbe, Lagos.

“We are bogged down by this bureaucratic bottleneck. The witness is necessary to lay the groundwork. In the circumstances, we cannot proceed” Mr. Fagbemi added.

The prosecutor, Dr. Jide Martins did not oppose Fagbemi’s application for adjournment; he observed that another witness could have been prepared to testify.

He said:  “Without sounding pedantic, I would have thought an alternative witness would have been produced by the defence.”

The defendants, according to the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), violated Section 75 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State, 2010 as well as Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the offence they were charged.

In his ruling, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo adjourned hearing till May 10 and 11 for the defence to open its case.”

It would be recalled that the Lagos State Government on April 19, 2016 had arraigned SCOAN’s trustees alongside two engineers who constructed the building – including Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun – and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Ltd./ NAN.

 

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