Lagos – A coroner on Wednesday threatened popular Nigerian preacher TB Joshua with arrest if he failed to testify at an inquest into the deaths of 116 people at his church.
Oyetade Komolafe rejected arguments from Joshua’s lawyers that the televangelist should not be summoned because he did not directly witness the September 12 tragedy.
A total of 84 South Africans were among the dead when a guesthouse for foreign followers at Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) collapsed in Lagos.
Joshua, known to members of his church as “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”, has indicated that sabotage was to blame and linked the collapse to a low-flying aircraft seen in the area at the time.
“The court has the power to summon whoever it deems necessary to assist it,” Komlafe told the hearing in the city.
“The counsel should advise The Prophet to come. The church is not on trial. It’s not a matter of ego. Nobody is above the law. The court will be fair to all.
“If he is an institution with immunity, the court will not even go there. If the man refuses to come, he can be arrested… He has to appear. We summoned The Prophet. We summoned the contractors.”
Joshua, a self-styled miracle worker who claims he can see the future, counts powerful business figures, politicians and African presidents among his flock.
He is one of Nigeria’s five richest pastors, with an estimated net worth from SCOAN and his emmanuel.tv network of between $10 million and $15 million, according to Forbes magazine in 2011.
He is due to give evidence on November 5.
A pathologist and emergency service workers disagreed with Joshua’s theory of a possible explosion, citing crush injuries to the victims and the absence of blast wounds or fire at the site.
Building inspectors have previously said the addition of extra floors to the guesthouse, without strengthening the foundations, was the likely cause of the collapse.
The inquest was adjourned until Thursday.