Two structural engineers, indicted by a Lagos Coroner Inquest over collapse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) building on Wednesday asked a Federal High Court, Lagos, to quash the verdict.
The applicants, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, on Wednesday also brought an exparte application through their counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo, seeking to restrain the police from inviting them for questioning or arresting them.
The applicants had filed two separate suits seeking to quash the coroner’s verdict indicting them for “criminal negligence’’ on the Sept. 12, 2014, SCOAN’s six-storey building collapse.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the applicants were the structural engineers involved in the construction of the collapsed SCOAN building in which 116 persons died.
NAN recalls that the Lagos Coroner, Mr Oyetade Komolafe, who conducted the inquest into the 116 deaths from the collapsed building had on July 8, indicted the engineers for criminal negligence and recommended their prosecution.
At the hearing on Wednesday, Ojo, told the court that the police had been after his clients.
He claimed that his clients’ constitutional rights to dignity and personal liberty as enshrined in Sections 34 and 35 of the 1999 Constitution were in jeopardy as they could no longer freely move about.
Ojo also said that the police had visited Ogundeji’s house, adding that they arrested and detained his brother-in-law when they did not meet him.
In Fatiregun’s case, Ojo said the police visited his office in Ikeja on July 16, to arrest him but he was not around.
He said: “Fatiregun voluntarily went to the police following which he was arrested and detained and asked to make written statement regarding the role his company played in the collapse of the building.
“But the arrest of the engineers on July 16 violates the fundamental rights enforcement action that they filed against the respondents on July 15, challenging the coroner’s verdict.
“Arresting my clients in the face of the pending suits amounts to injustice and there are other serious issues raised in their suit which were yet to be determined by the court.“
Following Ojo’s argument, Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered “all the parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the applicants’ motions on notice“.
Idris adjourned to the case till Aug. 3 for hearing.
NAN reports that the respondents in the suits are the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, the Attorney General of Lagos State and the Lagos Coroner, Mr Oyetade Komolafe.
In the motion on notice, the applicants are seeking among other prayers that the coroner’s verdict against them should be declared null and void.
They are also urging the court to declare that the Lagos police boss lacks the power to act on the coroner’s verdict to investigate or prosecute them.
The applicants are also seeking to restrain the Lagos State Attorney General or any officer under his authority from initiating or commencing criminal proceedings against them on the basis of the coroner’s verdict..
It should be recalled that a SCOAN building collapsed on Sept. 12, 2014.
The tragic incident claimed the lives of 85 South Africans, 22 Nigerians, two Beninoise, one Togolese and six unidentified persons.