Monday, October 19, 2015 10:26 pm
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has reserved ruling till 2nd of November on the preliminary objections filed by the police and three other respondents in a suit filed by Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, the structural engineers of the Synagogue Church of All Nations(SCOAN) seeking to stop the police from arresting or questioning them over the collapse of a six-storey building within the premises of the church.
A Lagos coroner, Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe, who conducted an inquest into the death of the 116 persons that died in the collapsed building, had on July 8, 2015 indicted Ogundeji and Fatiregun of criminal negligence and recommended them for criminal prosecution by Lagos State.
However, the two engineer being dissatisfied with the recommendation filed different actions at the court to stop any possible arrest, detention and prosecution by the police.
Apart from the Commissioner of Police, other respondents in the suit are: the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria(COREN), the Attorney General of Lagos State and the Coroner, Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe.
Lawyer to the Engineers, Olalekan Ojo, urged the court to dismiss the respondents’ preliminary objections to the suit on the ground that Section 46 of the Constitution allows an applicant who is contending that his fundamental rights have been or are likely to be violated to seek the protection of the court.
He contended that the applicants are by their suits seeking for an interpretation of Sections 34 and 35 of the Constitution by the court with regards to the powers of the police to arrest, detain and prosecute them in the circumstances of the case.
“The applicant contend that their indictment by the Coroner is a nullity and as such they cannot be arrested, detained or charged to any court. They only appeared before the Coroner as witnesses and nothing more”, the lawyer said.
In his submissions, COREN’s lawyer, A. A. Osara, while urging the court to dismiss the suit disclosed that there is no provisions under Chapter 4 of the Constitution which bars any Nigerian citizen from being invited for questioning.
He told the court that “by the nature of the reliefs sought against COREN, the applicants who are registered Engineers are bound to be investigated when such an incident happened. Therefore the court cannot prevent a statutory body like COREN from carrying out its statutory duties”.
Lawyer to the Police, Attorney General of Lagos and the Coroner, E. E. Bakare, told the court that the Coroner has not indicted the Engineers but has only called on the police to investigate them and proceed with their prosecution if found culpable. therefore urged the court not to assist the applicants in perverting the course of justice.
After listening to parties in the suit,the Presiding judge Ibrahim Buba adjourned the matter till November 2,2015 for ruling on the preliminary objections.