Legal Nigeria

Synagogue building collapse: Judge orders substituted service on contractors

Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of an Ikeja High Court yesterday ordered that the contractors who supervised the collapsed guest house within the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) should be served the court processes through substituted means.
Particularly, Justice Lawal-Akapo ordered that substituted service of the court processes be effected on the contractors by pasting it on the front doors of their addresses which include, 34, Akindele Street, off Kollinton Bus stop, Alagbado, Lagos State, and 42, Toyin Street, Ikeja, Lagos State.
Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, the contractors in charge of the collapsed building have been charged alongside the Registered Trustees of SCOAN, Hardrock Construction Company, and Jadny Trust Ltd, have been indicted by a coroner court over the collapsed structure, which made the state to file a criminal charge against them.
In his short ruling, the court also maintained that evidence of the photographs showing the sheriff of court pasting same on the buildings should be tendered before the court.
Before Justice Lawal-Akapo’s order, lawyer to the state government, Idowu Alakija had informed the court of the existence of a motion ex parte dated December 11, 2015 and filed on the same date.
Alakija told the court that, “We have been able to serve the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd defendants and there is proof of service to that effect.
“But we have been unable to effect service of court processes on the 4th and 5th defendants. There is a motion ex-parte and we pray your Lordship to allow us move same.
“It is seeking an order to serve the information on the 4th and 5th defendants by substituted means by pasting on their addresses.
“The affidavit evidence to show that it has been impossible to serve the 4th and 5th defendants are before this court.”
The defendants were charged to court sequel to their indictment and subsequent recommendation for prosecution by the Lagos State Coroners Court set up to investigate the cause of the collapse leading to the death of 116 people mostly South Africans in September 12, 2014.
Specifically, Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe of the Lagos State Coroners Court sitting in Ikeja, in his ruling on August 7, 2015 said the church and its contractors were essentially negligent in the fatal collapse of the six-storey building owned by the church.
The verdict however did not go down well with the contractors who approached the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos with two separate suits challenging the Magistrate Oyetade’s verdict.
The engineers in their suit pleaded with the court, presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba for an order restricting the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the victims’ death.
The coroners verdict which was rejected by the contractors was described as “unreasonable, one-sided and biased.”
They further maintained that the Nigeria Police, Lagos State Government (Respondents) and Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN) would act upon the Coroner’s findings by proceeding to arrest, investigate and/or prosecute them for criminal negligence.
They had equally argued that if the respondents carry out these aforementioned acts, their actions would amount to a likely breach of their fundamental human rights to fair hearing, human dignity and personal liberty.
In his ruling, on the defendants’ preliminary objection, the Federal High Court judge held that the contractors had not made a case for infringement on their fundamental human rights even on the merit of the application, and dismissed their applications on November 11, 2015, paving the way for the trial to commence.
The case in Ikeja has been adjourned till January 19, 2016 for report of service and possible arraignment.