The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) Thursday faulted the coroner’s verdict on Wednesday indicting the church and calling for the prosecution for criminal negligence, two of the collapsed building’s contractors.
SCOAN, in an official statement signed by its legal counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo, rejected the verdict of the coroner on the grounds that it was ‘unreasonable, one-sided and biased.’
The church maintained that the building collapsed as a result of sabotage.
Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe in his verdict on Wednesday said the building collapse was caused by structural failure due to a combination of designs and detailing errors.
The 12 September, 2014 collapse of a six-storey guesthouse within the Synagogue Church premises in Ikotun a suburb of Lagos, western Nigeria, led to the death of 116 persons most of whom were South Africans.
SCOAN in the statement rejected the coroner’s claim that it had no building approval, stating that there was evidence proving that the church had started processing the necessary permits.
The church said: “There was evidence that the church had started processing the relevant building approval before the incident, which had been approved and assessed for payment by the appropriate government bodies
“There was no finding that connected the incident with the lack of a building permit.
“There was no finding that the church procured substandard materials for the construction of the building, as confirmed by officials of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) who gave evidence at the coroner and certified the materials used were all approved and of good quality.”
The statement also faulted the coroner’s rejection of the claim that the building collapse was caused by a mystery aircraft which hovered over the building moments before it came down.
The statement said: “The church disagrees with the findings concerning the aircraft that hovered over the six-storey building because there was evidence before the court that the incident could have been brought about by external forces such as controlled demolition or an explosion.
“The verdict did not even refer to the CCTV footage which showed the 6-storey building falling in less than 4 seconds in a manner consistent with controlled or externally induced demolition.”
The church noted that Komolafe in his verdict did not refer to the interim report and investigation by the Nigerian Police Force which pointed to sabotage by external forces.
On the coroner’s call for the prosecution of the architect, Mr Oladele Ogundeji and the contractor, Mr Akinbola Fatiregun, of Hardrock Construction Ltd.,for criminal negligence, the church said the call for prosecution was ‘premature’.
“The recommendation for the investigation and prosecution of the contractors and structural engineers used by the church for criminal negligence is premature.
“It gives the impression that the coroner has found them guilty when a coroner is not allowed in law to make any finding of civil or criminal liability against anybody,” the church said.
The church said that Komolafe did not refer in his verdict to the evidence of registered engineers and contractors used by the church neither did he evaluate the conflicting evidence given by engineers as to whether or not the incident was as a result of structural failure.
Addressing Komolafe’s recommendation that statutory responders should be adequately equipped, SCOAN said that the church made efforts to ensure the rescue operation was successful.
The statement said: “The coroner’s verdict was informed by the fact that the statutory responders who carried out rescue operations in this case were ill-equipped and ill-trained.
“It was the church that mobilised human and material resources to ensure a successful rescue operation.
“The conduct of the investigation of the incident was compromised by the failure of the appropriate government agencies to take necessary steps to secure and preserve the scene of the incident, which calls into question the integrity and reliability of the entire investigation.”
The statement added that the verdict left many issues unaddressed and questions unanswered.