A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday refused to grant an injunction restraining the ongoing inquest into the collapse of a building at the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Ikoun area of Lagos State.
Justice Ibrahim Buba said the court would not grant the restraining order, but rather hear the case on its merit.
Buba said this while delivering ruling on an oral application by Olukoya Ogungbeje seeking to stop further investigation into the building collapse by the Coroner’s court.
No fewer than 116 people were killed on September 12 following the collapse of a six-storey building within the premises of the church.
The Lagos State Government had on September 26 constituted a Coroner’s inquest to unravel the circumstances leading to the incident.
Ogubgbeje, a Lagos-based lawyer, on October 28 filed a suit at the FHC to stop the inquest.
The respondents in suit are the Lagos State Government; the Attorney General of the State, Ade Ipaye; and Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, the Coroner.
When the case was mentioned on Tuesday, counsel to the applicant, Nelson Okedinachi, said it was necessary for the court to issue an order restraining the Coroner from further investigating the incident.
Okedinachi said that the General Overseer of the Church, Prophet T.B Joshua, had already been summoned to appear before the coroner on November 5, adding that it was important to stop this.
He said: “The draconian speed at which the coroner’s court is sitting, simply means that after it summons Prophet T.B. Joshua, it would make its findings and submit its report.
“Then this entire suit will be a waste.
“It is therefore important for my lord to restrain them from further inquest into the matter.”
Akinjide Bakare, the Counsel to the Lagos State Government, said that there was no basis for the application, which sought to restrain the continued sitting of the Coroners’ inquest.
Bakare said: “T.B. Joshua is not held in detention and has not refused to appear before the court.
“So I wonder why a man will drink Panadol for another man’s headache.”
Buba held that an order of interim injunction was not necessary in the situation since the applicant was not personally affected by the inquest.
He said: “Although, Okedinachi wants an order of interim injunction restraining T.B. Joshua from appearing before the coroner, I must say that he is not a party to the suit, neither is he held in detention.
“The respondents were served with the court processes on Friday.
“And by the rules, they have five days to respond, but time was abridged and they accepted.
“And so, let us not lose sight of the issue here.
“If Ogungbeje was the party summoned before the coroner, then the issue of a restraining order will arise, but in this situation, how can I restrain the whole world.
“The applicant has not shown that he will suffer any danger if the restraining order is not granted.
“And so, I will hear this case on its merit on Thursday, November 6 and I will not grant any restraining order.
“This is the ruling of this court.”
The applicant in his suit averred that the composition of the Coroner’s Court was a negation of the principle of natural justice and Section 36 of the Constitution and as such, was unconstitutional and void.
He averred that the inquest was constituted by the Lagos State Government after the agencies of the state government had indicted the Church of erecting additional structures on an already existing building without approval.
He argued that if allowed to continue, the proceedings of the Coroner inquest will occasion a miscarriage of justice, as the same Coroner would based its decision on the testimonies of the same agencies of Lagos State.
The lawyer alleged that the Lagos State Emergency Agency, the Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Lagos State Fire Service had made prejudicial reports that the building collapsed due to additional structures.
He averred that the contention of the church that the building collapsed as a result of an aircraft hovering round the building moments before it collapsed was ignored.
Ogungbeje averred that The Lagos State Building Control Agency went ahead to seal up the main building of the church.
The lawyer is therefore seeking an order nullifying the composition of the Coroner and the proceedings so far, as well as an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants jointly and severally from further proceedings.
He wants every sitting, investigation, fact finding or any action in any manner whatsoever on any facts connected to the case to be put on hold until the suit is determined.