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Synagogue: Court dismisses engineer’s lawsuit to stop prosecution

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By Onozure Dania

Lagos- A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, on Monday, dismissed the fundamental rights enforcement suits by the engineers that built the collapsed six-storey building of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations that killed 116 people on September 12, 2014.

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The engineers, Mr Oladele Ogundeji and Mr Akinbela Fatiregun had filed the suits before Justice Ibrahim Buba seeking to restrain the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the victims’ death.

Their suit followed the verdict of the coroner’s inquest, which attributed the building collapse to structural defect and recommended that the engineers should be investigated and prosecuted for criminal negligence.

At the resumed hearing of the matter, today, Justice Buba in a short ruling on the defendants’ preliminary objection, said that the engineers “had not made out a case of infringement on their fundamental rights even on the merit of the application,” and dismissed their applications.

The judge, who said that the Coroner Law was an enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly, which is constitutionally empowered to make laws in the state, added that “the Federal High Court cannot dabble into the affairs of the state and start dishing out injunctive orders.”

The engineers had, through their lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, challenged the coroner’s verdict, which they described as “unreasonable, one-sided and biased.”

They had urged Justice Buba to restrain the Lagos State Attorney General or any officer under his authority from initiating or commencing criminal proceedings against them based on the verdict of the coroner.

Ojo had argued, that “The fulcrum of the applicants’ case is that they were not charged with any offence before the coroner; they merely appeared as witnesses and the coroner went on to indict them of criminal negligence and it is a nullity.

“As far as this case is concerned, there is nothing against them; then what are the police acting upon? The applicants are saying that their indictment by the coroner court is a nullity and being a nullity the first to third defendants cannot on the basis of a nullity arrest, detain or charge the applicants to court. We are here so that they don’t use their powers to oppress us,” Ojo stated.

However, the Lagos State counsel, Mr. A.A. Bakare in the preliminary objection, argued that the applicants case was not a fundamental rights enforcement one, adding that it was a case filed by the engineers with an intention to stop government agents from performing their statutory and constitutionally recognized duties.

“Nobody has indicted the builder; all that was recommended by the coroner was police investigation and if found culpable, charge the builder to court. The police have invited the applicant to ‘come and tell your own side of the story.’ Does that amount to human rights violation?”

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