Manslaughter: Synagogue engineers’ trial resumes


The trial of the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations headed by Pastor TB Joshua resumed on Thursday before a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja.

The church is being prosecuted in relation to the death of 116 persons on September 12, 2014 when a six-storey building belonging to the church collapsed in the Ikotun area of Lagos.

While the church is being prosecuted on one count of alleged building without obtaining the approval of the state, the two engineers who supervised the collapsed building, Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, are being prosecuted on 110 counts of manslaughter.

Also joined as defendants in the charge were two construction companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited.

The defendants were arraigned by the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions on April 19, 2016.

But they pleaded not guilty to the offences.

Their trial resumed on Thursday before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, with a prosecution witness, Adebayo Olayinka, a retired operative of the Lagos State Fire Service, alleging that a crowd believed to be members of the church denied firemen on emergency rescue operation immediate access to the accident scene.

Led in evidence by the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs. Idowu Alakija, Olayinka claimed that he had to mix with the crowd to manage to gain access to the site of the collapsed building and assess the situation.

The witness further alleged that it took the intervention of then Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola, who visited the place on September 13, before firemen could be given access to commence rescue operation.

When Olayinka was challenged under cross-examination by the lead defence counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who contended that Fashola did not visit the site of the accident until the third day, the witness maintained that he saw Fashola on the second day.

Asked by Fagbemi whether he was dressed in the Lagos State Fire Service uniform when he visited the scene of the accident, Olayinka said he was dressed in full fire-fighting gear.

The defence counsel, however, pointed out to the witness that he (witness) was captured in a video, which showed otherwise, to which Olayinka replied that he had to remove his uniform to mingle with the crowd in order to gain entrance to conduct a quick survey of the situation.

But in response, Fagbemi said,“My supplication to the court is to look at the demeanour of the witness as to what he said earlier that he was wearing.”

The witness further testified that there was a fire outbreak in the rubble four days after the collapse.

He said, “On the fourth day at about 0855 hours on Monday the 15th, there was a fire incident within the rubble on the premises and we were able to put it out.”

Ruling out the possibility of arson, the witness said his team, after putting out the fire, found trapped cooking gas cylinders, some clothes and irons that could have rubbed against one another to generate hear leading to a fire.

Justice Lawal-Akapo adjourned till December 8, 2016 for continuation of trial.

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