Popular Nigerian evangelist TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations has rejected a coroner’s report indicting it of criminal negligence in the collapse of its Lagos building.
About 116 worshippers drawn from across the world were killed when the structure came down last year.
The church blamed it on an aircraft that was captured on CCTV hovering around the building. But after almost a year of inquest into the incident, the coroner says the building had no permits and also had more floors than its foundation could hold.
The coroner has recommended prosecution of the church’s leaders.
But in a sharp response, the church has rejected the report, citing political influence on the coroner’s work.
The collapsed building
Spokesperson for the church in Ghana Rev Samuel Excellence told Joy News “the last eight sittings showed that the church had no wrong doing, there was every indication, facts and truth to confirm that indeed there was no wrong doing.
“So it is surprising to the general public and the church in particular that after all the evidence on the ground, the coroner’s inquest came out with a one-sided verdict that the church conducted itself criminally”, he said.
He denied that the building that collapsed had structural defects because it was proven that the foundation was intact during the inquest.
Read the full statement below
OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM THE SYNAGOGUE, CHURCH OF ALL NATIONS IN RESPECT OF THE VERDICT GIVEN BY THE LAGOS CORONER’S COURT RELATING TO THE INCIDENT THAT HAPPENED ON SEPTEMBER 12TH 2014
The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) rejects the verdict of the coroner on the grounds that it is unreasonable, one-sided and biased. The church maintains its stand that the incident was as a result of sabotage.
From the verdict given today, we would like the public to take note of the following: There was no finding that the church engaged the services of unqualified or incompetent professionals for the construction of the building.
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.
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 church members prevented the statutory responders from carrying out their rescue duties.
The church disagrees most vehemently with the finding that the incident was due to structural failure.
The church considers it strange that the coroner did not refer in its verdict to the evidence of the COREN-registered structural engineer and contractor used by the church nor did it evaluate the conflicting evidence given by civil and structural engineers as to whether or not the incident was as a result of structural failure.
It was a one-sided verdict which left many issues unaddressed and questions unanswered.
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 – a manner consistent with controlled or externally induced demolition – nor did it refer to the interim report and investigation by the Nigerian police force which pointed to sabotage by external forces.
The church also disagrees with the finding that foundation failure was a remote cause because that is contrary to the overwhelming expert evidence of the structural engineers invited to the coroner who eliminated foundation failure as a possible cause.
The recommendation for the investigation and prosecution of the contractors and structural engineers used by the church for criminal negligence is premature because it gives the impression 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 recommendation for the investigation of The SCOAN for not possessing the relevant building permits is unwarranted because it did not take into account the evidence that the church had started processing the relevant building approval before the incident.
As a matter of fact, the amount payable for the processing had already been assessed by the appropriate government agencies.
The recommendation that statutory responders should be adequately equipped was informed by the fact that the statutory responders who carried out rescue operations in this case were ill-equipped and ill-trained, and that it was the church that mobilised human and material resources to ensure a successful rescue operation.
Finally, the coroner recognised that 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.
This is a statement from Barr. Olalekan Ojo, legal counsel to The SCOAN. We repeat: No matter how long a lie is sustained, the truth will someday prevail!
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