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Building collapse: Lagos sets to prosecute Synagogue contractor

By Olasunkanmi Akoni
 
Barely one year after the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, building collapsed in Ikotun area of Lagos state killing scores of worshippers and workers in the process, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Thursday, said his administration would enforce the verdict of the Coroner’s inquest in consonance with the rule of law.
 
It will be recalled that the building which mysteriously collapsed on September 12, 2014, amidst controversy has continued to generate public interest.
 
Ambode, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Habib Aruna, said his government would uphold and enforce the sanctity of the law in the state, just as he urged residents of the state to also respect the rule of Law.
 
“His Excellency hereby reiterates his government’s commitment to uphold and enforce the sanctity of the law in the state and calls on all Lagos resident to respect the rule of law”, the statement read.
 
Ambode explained that the  step became necessary as Coroner’s verdict of 7th July, 2015 made a number of recommendations which the state government would act upon accordingly.
 
The governor said that one of the provisions of the Coroner Law 2007 is the provision that empowers a Coroner to commence an inquest to find out the cause and manner of death which occur in an unusual manner.

“Consequent upon the collapse at the premises of Synagogue Church building, the state government applied that a coroner’s inquest be commenced into the cause of the tragic deaths.
 
“The state government will cause the prosecution of the contractor, Engineer Akinbela Fatiregun of Hardrock Engineering Company Limited and Structural Engineer, Oladele Ogundeji who constructed and supervised the collapsed building respectively at the Synagogue Church of All Nations for professional negligence,” the governor affirmed.
 
Ambode also said the state government would prosecute the SCOAN for neglecting to obtain building approval before commencing the building, contrary to the provisions of the Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law 2010.
 
The governor, however, appealed to residents of the state to always allow emergency responders perform their duties of emergency as they are trained for this purpose.
 
Ambode, therefore, urged land owners within the state who intend to embark on construction to employ the services of qualified and competent engineers who must obtain building permit before construction.
 
It will be recalled that the incident led to a diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa governments.
 
The consultant engineer, Ogundeji, who supervised the construction, had during one of the trials before Lagos coroner, Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, said that the September 12, 2014 building collapse was not caused by structural defects.

However, the court admitted the amended architectural and structural designs of the building as exhibit.

Led in evidence by Synagogue’s counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, the consultant told the court that he supervised Hardrock Construction and Engineering Limited, the firm which handled the project.

Ogundeji said that a soil test was conducted by a geo-technical engineer and that his report informed the design used for the building.

The building, according to him, was constructed in two phases beginning from July 2008 and was completed in September 2013.

“I will not agree that the collapse was caused by structural defect. If it was a structural defect, the collapse will be gradual. There will be cracks visible even to a layman.

“When I watched the CCTV footage, everything came down within four seconds. Speaking sincerely, I believe that it must have been induced scientifically, but I don’t know the means,” he added.

The witness said officials of the Lagos State Material Testing Agency came to the site and took samples of the materials for laboratory test after the incident.

He said the report released by the agency revealed that all concrete, reinforcement and columns of the building passed the agency structural integrity test.

Ogundeji, however, disagreed with the agency’s recommendation that a raft foundation should have been erected for the structure.


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