Originally published in African Spotlight
Many supporters of the founder and General Overseer of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Prophet T. B. Joshua, besieged the Lagos High Court, on Monday, as the coroner making inquest into the collapsed structure on the church premises began sitting.
The sympathisers, carrying placards with various inscriptions, said the televangelist was not guilty of any offence in the incident and called for his exoneration.
Four weeks after the collapse of the guest house on the premises of the church, a development that claimed more than a hundred lives, the coroner concluded plans to visit the site of the incident.
Though none of the family members of the deceased was present, the coroner’s inquest, held at the Lagos High Court on Monday, had in attendance representatives from the Lagos State government, the SCOAN, the Red Cross and some members of the civil society.
While consoling the bereaved families, the presiding magistrate, Mr Oyetade Komolafe, pointed out that the aim of the inquest was not to witchhunt anyone or lay blames.
“We all have the same interest here, as we are all Africans. What happened in SCOAN can happen anywhere in the world.
“I commiserate with the families of those who lost loved ones in the unfortunate incident, but I am appealing to the families of the deceased to make themselves available for DNA tests, so that the bodies can be adequately identified.
“We are not after any booty, as it were, as things must be done according to the law, without sacrificing justice on the altar of speed. This inquest in aimed at finding the root cause of the incident and give recommendations to avert further occurrences,” he said.
Komolafe also solicited the support of South Africa in identifying the bodies of its citizens, as the majority of the victims in the collapsed six-storey building were believed to be South Africans.
“I empathise with the families of the victims, but I want to seize this opportunity to state the importance of the DNA to this inquest.
“The medical team and pathologists are working because the court has directed them to carry out the activities and report back.
“It is important for the South African Embassy to ensure that relatives of the victims come forward for the pathologists to get the needed samples to compare with the bodies.
“The corpses have to be properly identified and when that is done and the process completed, the bodies would be released to the South African government,” he said.
While also giving his opening remarks, the counsel representing SCOAN, Lateef Fagbemi, commiserated with the families of the deceased, while charging the coroner to be proactive towards addressing the evolving security issues.
“There will be many witnesses, because this is a multi-dimensional case. There is the need to consider the front loading witnesses. There is also the need to frontload the evidence of many experts with relevant documents,” he said.
The case was adjourned till October 24.
Meanwhile, a group, Coalition of Christian Youth Groups in Nigeria, has tasked the Lagos State government to carry out fair and impartial investigation into the incident.
Addressing a press conference in Osogbo, Osun State capital, its national president, Mr Seyi Bamidele, maintained that thorough investigation into the collapsed building at SCOAN was critical, to unearth the actual cause of the tragedy.
Bamidele, who contended that his group had conducted independent investigation into the incident, said “from our findings, the incident was not a structural collapse as people are made to believe.”
According to him, “in the course of our investigation, we took time to interact with people, including members of the church, members of Ikotun-Egbe community where the church is located and discovered that the incident was not a natural disaster.
“Nowhere in the world has any building with structural defects been brought down to its foundation like the SCOAN building. It is also important to note that of all the buildings on the church premises, it was only the particular guest house that an aircraft hovered around that collapsed.”