Coroner recommends Synagogue church, others for prosecution

The Lagos coroner, Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, has called for an investigation and possible prosecution of the two structural engineers who built the collapsed six-storey building belonging to the Synagogue Church Of All Nations which killed 116 persons on September 12, 2014.
While the coroner recommended the Structural Engineers, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun of HardRock Construction Company Limited, for prosecution for criminal negligence, he equally indicted SCOAN of erecting a building without “possessing necessary building permits,” asking that same be investigated and prosecuted.
The coroner made these recommendations on Wednesday following his verdict that, as opposed to the claim by SCOAN, the collapsed six-storey building was not sabotaged but fell as a result of “structural failure due to the combination of designs and detailing errors.”
Komolafe, who said he was convinced that the collapsed building had no approval of the state, asked that the church be “investigated and proceeded against under the law by the relevant authority.”
He further recommended that fitness test should be conducted on all other structures on the premises of SCOAN in order to prevent a future occurrence of the September 12, 2014 tragedy.
 “Relevant authority should carry out detailed ‘fitness for habitation test’ on all the structures/buildings within the premises of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations, situated at Segun Irefin Street, Ikotun, Lagos State, immediately,” the coroner added.
Having indicted the Divisional Police Officer of the Ikotun Police Station, CSP Haruna Alaba, of dereliction in the line of duty, the coroner recommended his immediate transfer to another station.
Komolafe had described as peculiar the testimony of Alaba, who while giving evidence before the court, said he was alerted via a telephone call by the Police Headquarters Control Room in Ikeja to an aircraft flying low and allegedly causing panic in the Ikotun area in the noon of September 12, 2014.
The magistrate wondered that though the church and the police station were within a walking distance of each other, Alaba, who was on ground and in charge of the security of the entire Ikotun area, had to depend on the control room in Ikeja to know what was happening under his watch.
As opposed to the testimony of Alaba that the said aircraft was causing panic in the area prior to the building collapse, the coroner said it was evident from the CCTV footage tendered in evidence and shown in court that the said aircraft did not cause any panic.
While rejecting the argument of the church that the “strange aircraft” was responsible for the collapse, the coroner relied on the report of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority which gave the flight altitude of the aircraft from the top of the collapsed building as 1,100 feet.
According to NCAA, in its report, a distance of 1,100 feet was equal to about 106 standard floors of a building, leading to the conclusion that there was a distance of, at least, 103 floors between the top of the collapsed six-story building and the altitude at which the aircraft flew.
As for the testimony of a weapon researcher, Biedomo Iguniewei, who suggested that the building could have been felled by firing infrasonic radiations at it, the coroner said Iguniewei had admitted that his suggestion was based on what he read in books and had neither demonstrated nor witnessed where infrasonic radiations, as he suggested, were used.
The coroner said Iguniewei failed to show or establish how infrasonic radiations were used in the Synagogue case.
The coroner recalled the testimony of the Lagos State Chief Medical Examiner, Prof. John Obafunwa, who with his team carried out autopsy (test)on the dead bodies and submitted that none of the bodies was charred and there was no evidence of carbon dioxide in their lungs to suggest that an explosive was used to fell the building.
Relying on the report by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria and others, the coroner concluded that the six-storey building collapsed from inadequate columns and beams, which constituted structural defect.
The coroner’s inquest, which began on October 13, 2014, reached its conclusion from the testimonies of 32 witnesses and 45 exhibits tendered before it.
It put the mortality figure at 116, youngest of who was a six-year-old male, Ayantola Joseph, whose cause of death was given as massive heamothorax and multiple lungs laceration.
The coroner, relying on the report of the pathologist, identified 85 of the victims to be South African nationals, 22 to be Nigerians, two Beninoise and one Togolese, while six bodies were unidentified.
The cause of the victims’ deaths ranged from traumatic asphyxia, severe cranio-cerebral injury, congestive heart failure, intracranial haemorrhage, heamothorax, haemorrhagic shock to multiple crush injuries.
The coroner, who gave a 13-point recommendation, charged the agencies of the government in charge of the monitoring and inspection of construction works to “be alive to their responsibility and be vigilant,” otherwise “the function should be outsourced to competent professional body that will detect a violation of building laws and regulations early before failure.”
He said the agencies needed to be rid of corruption “including issuance of fake receipts and ‘greasing of palms’ during inspection on construction works on site.”
He added, “Government should reduce the cost of obtaining necessary building permits or approval and remove administrative bottlenecks in order to encourage individual and organisations to go through the due process of obtaining necessary building permits or approval before the commencement of building constructions.”
Komolafe also advocated better equipment of statutory first responders to emergency situations in the country.

Coroner recommends Synagogue church, others for prosecution Coroner recommends Synagogue church, others for prosecution Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, July 09, 2015 Rating: 5

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