A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos Monday dismissed the fundamental human rights enforcement suits filed by the engineers who constructed the collapsed six-story building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Ikotun area of Lagos.
A total number of 116 persons had lost their lives on September 12, 2014 when the building collapsed.
The engineers – Mr. Oladele Ogundeji and Mr. Akinbela Fatiregun, had filed two separate suits before Justice Ibrahim Buba seeking an order restraining the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the victims’ death.
The Lagos State Government thereafter set up a Coroner Inquest to unravel what went wrong, and via a verdict delivered on August 7, 2015 by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, the Coroner indicted the engineers and recommended them for investigation and prosecution for criminal negligence.
Justice Buba, in his ruling on the defendants’ preliminary objection on yesterday, held 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.
He noted that the Coroner Law was an enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly, which is constitutionally empowered to make laws in the state, and said “the Federal High Court could not dabble into the affairs of the state and start dishing out injunctive orders.”
On the prayer by the engineers asking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining 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, Justice Buba held that such request cannot be granted in the circumstance of the case under review.
His words: “The Coroner’s inquest is not a court of law; it does not find anybody guilty, it only recommends. The Federal High Court cannot tamper with the Coroner Law, which is a Constitutional enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly.”
The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, after the Coroner’s verdict, had promised implementation of the decision of the Coroner Inquest.
While reacting to yesterday’s verdict by Justice Buba, the State Government hailed the ruling, and disclosed that Government would immediately seek arraignment and prosecution of the suspects at the Lagos High Court where charges are pending before Honourable Justice Lawal Akapo.