Inquest: Coroner fixes date for ruling on T.B. Joshua’s application to stay proceedings

The inquest was instituted under the Lagos State Coroner’s System Law No. 7 of 2007 for the purpose of unraveling the cause of the incident

The coroner investigating the building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations on Friday fixed December 10 for ruling on an application filed by the church’s Founder, Prophet T.B. Joshua.
The Coroner, Oyetade Komolafe, fixed the date after arguments from Joshua’s counsel, Olalekan Ojo, and counsel to Lagos State, Akingbolahan Adeniran.
The inquest was instituted under the Lagos State Coroner’s System Law No. 7 of 2007 for the purpose of unraveling the cause of the incident.
No fewer than 116 persons were killed when a six-storey building collapsed in the church’s compound on September 12.
Joshua had in the application asked the court to stay proceedings on issues relating to calling of witnesses in respect of the building’s approval or material tests of the collapsed building.
The cleric also asked the coroner to suspend further actions on an invitation to him to appear before the inquest to give evidence.
He asked that proceedings should be stayed pending the determination of a suit he filed against the coroner before Justice Lateefat Okunnu of an Ikeja High Court.
Moving the application, Ojo argued that there was a nexus between the application before the coroner and the suit pending before the high court.
He said that the application before Okunnu was for a judicial review to ascertain whether Komolafe had exceeded the statutory jurisdiction of the coroner’s court.
He said: “We may be right.
“We may be wrong, but what we are saying is that this coroner’s court has been extending and it is still extending its inquisitions into areas outside the statutory jurisdiction of the coroner’s court.
“It is our view that the strict scope of the coroner’s inquest is to ascertain the cause and manner of death and it will be in the best interest of all of us to get a judicial interpretation from a superior court.
“The best and reasonable cause of action for this court is to stay proceedings of the issues in contention, pending the time the high court will deliver its pronouncement one way or the other.”
Ojo, therefore, urged the coroner to accord the high court respect by not taking any actions that could prejudice the suit before Okunnu.
Responding, Adeniran argued that Section 40 of the Coroner’s System Law empowered the coroner to investigate and determine the cause of death of an individual who died under suspicious circumstances.
He said: “There is nothing in the Coroner’s System Law that reduces its jurisdiction.
“This honourable court, in our opinion, has not exceeded its jurisdiction.”
Adeniran further argued that the suit before Okunnu did not translate to an automatic stay of proceedings of the coroner’s inquest.
He said: “At the time the high court granted the applicants leave to apply for the judicial review, the judge was in a position to grant them a stay of proceedings but did not.
“As it stands, there is no order from the high court for a stay of proceedings.”
Adeniran also argued that Joshua and the church had not presented sufficient materials before the court to warrant the coroner to exercise his discretion in their favour.
He therefore asked the court to dismiss the application.