A Lagos Federal High Court yesterday struck out the fundamental rights enforcement suits filed by the two engineers who were indicted and recommended for prosecution by a Lagos State Coroner, over the collapsed Synagogue Church of All Nations’ six-storey building that killed 116 persons on September 12, 2014.
The two engineers, Mr. Oladele Ogundeji and Mr. Akinbela Fatiregun had filed separate suits before Justice Ibrahim Buba, seeking an order restraining the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the deaths that occurred as a result of the collapse.
The engineers had filed the suits through their lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, following the verdict of the coroner presided over by Magistrate Komolafe, which attributed the building collapse to structural defect and recommended the engineers for investigation and prosecution for criminal negligence.
In his ruling on the respondents’ preliminary objection yesterday, Justice Buba said 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 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.
But the state through its counsel, Mr. A.A. Bakare, filed a preliminary objection, arguing that the engineers’ cases were 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 that ‘come and tell your own 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 argued.
Also, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN, which was also joined as respondent in the suits, had said the reliefs 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.”
Justice Buba in his ruling upheld the respondents’ preliminary objection, saying “the coroner’s inquest is not a court of law; it does not find anybody guilty; it only recommends,” adding that the Federal High Court could not tamper with the coroner law which is a constitutional enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly.