A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday fixed November 2, 2015 for rulings on preliminary objections to suits filed by the engineers who built the collapsed Synagogue Church Of All Nations’ building, Mr. Oladele Ogundeji and Mr. Akinbela Fatiregun.
Ogundeji and Fatiregun sued the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria and the Attorney General of Lagos State.
The fourth defendant in the suit is the Lagos coroner, Mr. Oyetade Komolafe, who indicted the engineers of criminal negligence over the death of the 116 persons who perished in the collapsed SCOAN building.
Ogundeji and Fatiregun are seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State from arresting, detaining, investigating or prosecuting them based on Komolafe’s verdict and recommendations.
They also want 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.
Their lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, told Justice Ibrahim Buba that the engineers considered the coroner’s verdict a nullity and maintained that there was no basis for the police to invite, arrest or investigate them.
“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 1st to 3rd 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 said.
But in their preliminary objections, the Lagos AG and the coroner, through their counsel, Mr. A.A. Bakare, said the engineer’s case was not fundamental rights enforcement in nature but one intending to stop government agents from performing their statutory and constitutionally recognised 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 own your side of the story.’ Does that amount to human rights violation?
“I would not want to contemplate that there is a law in this country preventing the police from inviting a citizen for questioning.
“I urge Your Lordship not to allow this applicant to pervert the course of justice,” Bakare said.
On its own part, COREN said the reliefs being sought by the engineers were not provided for under Chapter 4 of the constitution.
“COREN, a statutory body established by law, has the duty to investigate any of its members for professional misconduct.
“What the applicant is asking is to prevent COREN from carrying out its statutory functions; it’s like asking the court not to hear a case or give judgment.
Justice Buba fixed November 2 for the two rulings.