The Lagos State government on Monday failed to arraign the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), alongside the indicted Engineers who supervised the collapsed guest house belonging to SCOAN, before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja.
The failure came due to the inability of the state government to effect service of court processes on some of the defendants which prompted their absence in court.
It would be recalled that the Lagos State government had initiated a criminal charge against the defendants: Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Hardrock Construction Company, Jadny Trust Ltd, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun sequel to their indictment and subsequent recommendation for prosecution by the Lagos State Coroner’s inquest set up by the state government to investigate the cause of the collapsed guest house which led to the death of 116 people, mostly South Africans, in September 12, 2014.
Founder of the church, Prophet T.B Joshua was represented by a member of the Trustees, while others were absent.
It would be recalled that the inquest, presided over by Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe had in its verdict of August 7, 2015 ruled that SCOAN and its contractors were essentially negligent in the fatal collapse of the six-storey guest house.
Following the Coroner’s verdict, the indicted engineers, Ogundeji and Fatiregun (4th and 5th defendants in the suit) had initiated two separate suits before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, seeking an order restraining the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the victims’ deaths.
They described the verdict as unreasonable, one-sided and biased. However in his ruling, Justice Buba held that the engineers “had not made a case for infringement on their fundamental human rights even on the merit of the application.
The judge consequently dismissed their applications on November 11, 2015 paving the way for the trial to commence.
At the proceeding, lawyer to the 1st and 2nd defendants, Seun Abimbola notified the court that apart from his two clients, other defendants in the suit have not been served.
In responding, Lagos State Attorney General and Justice Commissioner, Adeniji Kazeem, confirmed that only two of the five defendants have been served due to invalid addresses of the 3rd to 5th defendants.
However, the court issued a directive that counsel to the 1st defendant, Abimbola help furnish the prosecution with valid addresses of the 3rd to 5th defendants within 72 hours to enable the prosecution effect service on them before the next adjourned date.
While adjourning the matter till December 11, 2015, Justice Akapo said that the matter was a sensitive criminal case and that service in any proceeding is fundamental and anything done outside of it is a nullity.
The judge therefore declared that, “The defence counsel is hereby directed to oblige the prosecution team with valid addresses of the 3rd, 4th and 5th defendant within 72 hours.”