The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) has accused Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, who is presiding over the Coroner’s Inquest investigating the circumstances surrounding the collapse of a six-storey guest house within the church premises of exceeding his jurisdiction.
Counsel to the church, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), made the submission on Thursday at the commencement of the church’s suit against Komolafe and the Lagos State Government, before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of an Ikeja High Court.
The Lagos State Government inaugurated the coroner’s inquest under the state Coroner’s System Law No.7 of 2007 to investigate the cause and circumstances resulting in the death of 166 people following the building collapse of September 12, 2014, and bring its findings and recommendations to the appropriate authorities.
SCOAN and its founder, Prophet T.B Joshua, had filed an application dated November 11, 2014 and marked ID/188MJR/2014 before the High Court, seeking a judicial review of the Coroner’s proceedings, which began on October 13.
Moving the application, yesterday, Fagbemi argued that the Lagos State Coroner’s Law 2007 only empowered the coroner to determine the cause of death and to identify the body of the deceased.
According to him taking evidence on the issues of approval and construction of the collapsed building are clearly outside the scope and jurisdiction of the coroner’s court.
He said Komolafe had been hearing evidence on such extraneous issues at the inquest proceedings.
Fagbemi said Sections 32 and 33 of the Coroner Law does not empower the coroner to summon on manners of persons to appear before the inquest.
According to him, the coroner’s summons on SCOAN’s founder, Prophet Joshua, to personally appear before the inquest is unconstitutional and a breach of his right to fair hearing.
He said the coroner had demonstrated personal interest in the subject matter which could lead to being biased against his client.
Fagbemi, therefore, urged the court to grant the application and declare the coroner proceedings null and void.
Responding, counsel to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Afeez Owokoniran, urged the court to dismiss the suit.
Owokoniran said the coroner had extensive powers to investigate the cause and circumstances of death and bring his findings and recommendations to the attention of appropriate authorities.
“In doing this, he has all the powers of a magistrate to summon and compel the attendance of witnesses, including medical examiners, and require them to give evidence, produce documents or present other relevant materials.”
“In order to determine the cause of death, the coroner has the latitude to investigate issues pertaining to building approval, soil testing and materials used in the construction of the collapsed building,” he added.