By Abdulwahab. Abdulah & Bartholomew Madukwe with agency report
LAGOS—Lawyers to the Nigerian preacher, TB Joshua said yesterday they had mounted a legal challenge against the Lagos Coroner’s court who has ordered him to testify about a fatal building collapse at his Lagos mega church in Ikotun area of the state.
Joshua has been summonsed twice to give evidence at the inquest examining the circumstances of the September 12 tragedy in which 116 people were killed, but failed to appear on both occasions.
The latest no show by the popular televangelist yesterday seemed to have angered coroner Oyetade Komolafe, who said he would order his arrest.
But the pastor’s lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, told reporters after the hearing: “We have gone to the high court to challenge the jurisdiction of the coroner to issue a witness summons.
“The coroner has unconsciously exceeded his jurisdiction in that he has started inquiring into matters that are not causative of deaths.”
Komolafe was furious that Joshua, known to his followers as “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”, was not present for the start of proceedings on Thursday after failing to appear on November 5.
On that occasion, Ojo said Joshua had been “unavoidably absent,” and failed to receive the summons. “We don’t want the impression to be created that The Prophet is avoiding the court,” he said.
Yesterday, Komolafe said: “Any of the witnesses who is not in court today will be arrested. I think the court has been lenient enough.”
Joshua, who counts presidents and powerful politicians from across Africa among his flock, has claimed the collapse was caused by a mysterious aircraft seen “hovering” over the building at the time.
Ojo confirmed that his client had received the latest summons and added that his appearance was conditional on the outcome of the high court challenge.
“The Prophet has respect for the law of the land and will not do anything that will hurt the law,” he said.
“If at the end of the day, it is appropriate for The Prophet to appear he will be in court. We do not intend to abuse the legal process.
“Besides, The Prophet has a milk of human kindness. He is still grieving over the horrendous loss of lives. Coming to court is not proper. It is not a good way of showing respect for the dead.”
Technical hitch stops proceedings
Proceedings into the on-going coroner inquest into the September 12 Synagogue building collapse was yesterday stalled by faulty electronic recorder, which eventually forced the sitting to be adjourned till today .
At the resumed hearing of the investigation before the coroner yesterday, Magistrate O.A. Komolafe, the Standard Organization of Nigeria, SON, represented by Mr. Bede Obayi, Head, Inspectorate and Compliant Department of the SON told the coroner about their investigation of the materials collected from the rubbles of the collapsed building.
Expectedly, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, the Lagos State Ministry of Works, Synagogue Church Of All Nations, the contractor that built the failed structure and its founder, Prophet T.B. Joshua are to testify yesterday.