Prophet T.B. Joshua, yesterday, told the Coroner Court investigating the collapse of a guest house within his Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) the church that it had to discontinue proceedings until the High Court passes its verdict on the suit filed by the pastor, challenging his invitation before the inquest.
“This court (Coroner) being a lower court to the High Court cannot speculate on the outcome of a higher court. The best legal position is to adjourn this cause of proceeding till outcome of the application before Justice Okunnu. Where a higher court has taken position courts in the lower hierarchy must bow. If the High Court does not agree with us, then we resume at the coroner,” Joshua’s lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, said.
In an application filed before the coroner court, Pastor T.B. Joshua and Synagogue Church are asking the court to suspend proceeding until the determination of the substantive motion for judicial review by the Lagos High Court. Ojo argued that the substantive application before Justice Okunnu is asking for a limited suspension.
“The jurisdiction of this court to inquire into certain areas have been challenged before a higher court. The concept of jurisdiction is multi-faceted in nature, just like in the case of Doyin Okupe vs. Federal Board of Inland Revenue (FBIR). Asking questions on how engineering defects brought collapse to the building are outside the jurisdiction of the coroner court. A person acting within a jurisdiction can exceed its jurisdiction unconsciously when asking questions outside its jurisdiction,” he added.
According to him, on November 17, 2014, the High Court of Lagos State sitting at the Ikeja Judicial Division presided over by Hon. Justice L.A. Okunnu granted leave to the Applicants in suit No. ID/188/MJR/2014 to apply for a judicial review of the proceedings in the Suit No. CR/AL/101/2014 which is pending before the High Court.
Ojo told the coroner court that in the judicial review before the High Court, the Applicants (Prophet T.B. Joshua and Synagogue church) are praying the High Court to determine whether the statutory jurisdiction of the Coroner’s Court under the Coroner’s System Law 2007 particularly sections 15 and 40 of the Coroner’s Law is limited to conducting inquest into the cause and manner of death and does not extend to inquiry into matters that are not directly causative of the death or deaths being inquired into.
Replying on point of law, a senior State Counsel, Mr Akingbolahan Adeniran, argued that in line with section 40 of the Coroner’s System Law 2007, the major interest is on how a death occurred and there is no definition in Coroner Law that restraints the how.
“This is not the forum to argue an application before Justice Okunnu. The sole issue for determination in this application is whether the applicants has placed sufficient evidence in its favour. There is no currently no order by Justice Okunnu for stay of proceeding, which she would have done if she needed to do so. The ground for stay of proceeding is not automatic. It is because the Applicants filed an application that there should be a stay of proceeding,” the State Counsel stated.
Adeniran noted that the Applicants have not presented any witness before the court till date and it took them about three months to present the name of the contractor. He therefore urged the court to dismiss the application because the Applicants have not presented sufficient material before the coroner court for it to decide in the Applicants favour.
Coroner judge, Komolafe, however said he would hold off on further actions until the issue on ground is resolved. He adjourned to December 10 for ruling.