By Abdulwahab Abdulah
LAGOS—Justice Lateefa Okunnu of an Ikeja High Court was yesterday told by the Synagogue Church Of All Nations that the Lagos coroner’s court investigating the collapse of the church’s guest house presided over by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, had exceeded its jurisdiction.
Counsel to the church, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who made the claim while arguing the suit against Komolafe and Lagos State Government, said that Lagos State Coroner’s Law 2007 only empowered the coroner to determine the cause of death and identify the body (or bodies) of the deceased.
The inquest was set up by the government to investigate the Sept.12,2014, collapse of the six-storey building which killed 116 persons.
Moving the application, Fagbemi argued that taking evidence on the issues of approval and construction of the collapsed building was clearly outside the scope and jurisdiction of the coroner’s court.
According to him, Sections 32 and 33 of the Coroner Law does not empower the coroner to summon all manners of persons to appear before it. He maintained that Magistrate Komolafe had been hearing evidence on such extraneous issues at the inquest which began sitting on Oct.13, 2014.
He submitted that the coroner’s summons on SCOAN’s founder, Prophet Temitope Joshua, to personally appear before the inquest was unconstitutional and a breach of his right to fair hearing.
He added that the coroner had demonstrated personal interest in the subject matter which could lead to bias against his client.
Fagbemi, therefore, urged the court to declare the coroner proceedings null and void.
However, in its response, Lagos State Government, through its counsel, Mr Afeez Owokoniran, urged the court to dismiss the suit.
According to him, the coroner has 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,” he added.
The matter was adjourned to Feb.17 for reply on points of law.