Synagogue Tragedy: Court fines TB Joshua, trustees

Posted by News Express | 18 February 2015 | 3,638 times

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Founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, and registered trustees of the church have been slammed with a fine of N25,000 by a Lagos High Court, Ikeja.

Presided by Justice Lateefat Okunnu, the court said it took the decision after it had found that the applicants were delaying further hearing of the suit against a Lagos State Coroner, Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe.

Specifically, Justice Okunnu held that the cost was awarded because SCOAN and Joshua wasted the time of the court and tax payers’ money.

At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, counsel to the applicants, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), informed the court that he had filed two fresh applications relating to the suit.

According to the counsel, “We filed two processes yesterday. One is a motion and the other one is the applicants’ consolidated Reply on Points of Law.”

However, lawyer to the respondents, Karmardeen Bakare, argued that the processes were served on his team in court and he needed time to prepare his reply.

He then prayed the judge for adjournment to enable him examine the applications.

Consequently, Justice Okunnu declared that it was clear that the day’s proceedings could not go on as scheduled. The judge also observed that the suit had been adjourned several times at the instance of the applicants.

While awarding the fine, the judge declared that the applicants should file an affidavit of compliance before the next adjournment date fixed for February 20, 2015.

SCOAN along with its founder had earlier told the judge that Chief Magistrate Komolafe, who is the Coroner investigating the collapse of the guest house belonging to the church, had exceeded the jurisdiction of a coroner’s court.

They made the assertion through their lawyer, Fagbemi (SAN), while arguing in the suit made against Chief Magistrate Komolafe at the Lagos High Court.

The coroner’s inquest was initiated by the Lagos State Government to carry out investigation into the September 12, 2014 collapse of the six-storey building which claimed the lives of 116 persons.

In moving the application, Chief Fagbemi (SAN) maintained that the Lagos State Coroner’s Law 2007 only gave powers to the coroner to determine the cause of death and to identify the body of the deceased.

The SAN further argued that taking evidence on the issues of approval and construction of the collapsed building are clearly outside the scope and jurisdiction of the coroner’s court.

He said Chief Magistrate Komolafe had been hearing evidence on such extraneous issues at the inquest which started proceedings on October 13, 2014.

The senior lawyer maintained that Sections 32 and 33 of the Coroner Law does not empower the coroner to summon on manners of persons to appear before the inquest, adding that the coroner’s summons on Prophet T.B Joshua to personally appear was unconstitutional and a breach of his right to fair hearing.

He equally insisted that Chief Magistrate Komolafe had shown personal interest in the subject matter which could lead to being biased against his client. Fagbemi then prayed Justice Okunnu to grant the application and declare the coroner proceedings null and void.

However, lawyer to the Lagos State Government, Afeez Owokoniran, prayed the court to throw out the suit.

According to him, the coroner had extensive powers to investigate the cause and circumstances of death and bring his findings and recommendations to the attention of appropriate authorities.

He said, “In doing this, he 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.

“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.”

Adapted from Newswatch Times. Photo shows Joshua.

Source: News Express

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