Legal Nigeria

Synagogue inquest: Court orders status quo as contractors sue Coroner, others

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has ordered parties to maintain status quo, in the two separate suits by two engineers, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, seeking to quash the coroner’s verdict on Synagogue Church Of All Nations building collapse, which recommended their prosecution over the collapse church building.
The two structural engineers, supervised the collapsed six-storey church building.
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.
The  Lagos coroner, Mr. Komolafe, which conducted an inquest into the deaths of the 116 persons, who perished in the accident, had on July 8, 2015 indicted Ogundeji and Fatiregun of criminal negligence and recommended their prosecution by Lagos State.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, had last week, expressed the readiness 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, yesterday, before Justice Mohammed Idris, prayed the court to restrain the police from inviting or arresting them for questioning.
The plaintiffs are seeking the protection of the court, arguing that the police has been 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 plaintiffs added that the police had visited Ogundeji’s home, saying that when they did not see him, they detained his brother-in-law.
As for Fatiregun, the police was said to have gone 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 written statement regarding the role that his company, Hardrock Engineering Construction Limited, played in the collapsed SCOAN building.
According to them, the move to arrest them on July 16 followed the fundamental rights enforcement action they filed against the respondents on July 15, challenging the coroner’s verdict.
They argued that arresting them in the face of the pending suits would occasion injustice, adding that they had raised serious issues awaiting determination by the court.
Following the argument, the judge ordered all the parties to maintain status quo, pending the determination of the applicants’ motions on notice.
He adjourned till August 3, 2015 for hearing.
In the said motion on notice, the engineers are praying the court to declare that “the findings and recommendations of the 4th respondent as contained in the 4th respondent’s verdict dated July 8, 2015 as they relate to the applicants’ indictment for prosecution for criminal negligence and recommendation for prosecution for criminal negligence by the 1st to 3rd respondents are invalid, null and void and of no effect, whatsoever.”
They are also urging the court to declare that the Lagos Commissioner of Police lack the power to act on the coroner’s verdict to investigate or prosecute them.
They  are further praying the court to perpetual injunction restraining the Lagos State Attorney General or any officer under his authority from initiating or commencing criminal proceedings against the applicants on the basis of the findings and recommendations of the coroner.