Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court Ikeja, on Friday, described as lacking in merit, an application filed by the Synagogue Church of All Nations and its founder, Prophet Temitope Joshua, asking the court to halt the ongoing coroner’s inquest into its collapsed guesthouse.
Justice Okunnu dismissed the application for also being premature.
The inquest was set up by the Lagos State government to unravel the cause of the September 12, 2014 building collapse which killed 116 people.
Joshua, through his counsel, had dragged the coroner’s court and the coroner, Mr. Oyetade Komolafe, before the court asking for a judicial review of the proceedings.
Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) had asked the court to determine whether the witness summons served on Joshua to appear before the coroner did not constitute an infringement on his right to fair hearing.
Fagbemi had also asked the court to declare that the coroner exceeded the jurisdiction of a coroner’s court by delving into areas that were beyond its scope.
The respondent’s counsel, Mr Akinjide Bakare, had, however, urged the court to dismiss the application, arguing that the coroner had extensive powers to investigate the cause and circumstances of death and report to the appropriate authorities.
Delivering her ruling, the judge held that although the coroner’s court cannot be sued, Komolafe himself can be sued in his capacity as a coroner.
According to her, the court needed to resolve the issue whether the coroner has acted contrary to the rules of natural justice by not granting the applicants a fair hearing and whether he has exceeded the scope of a coroner’s court.
Okunnu said Sections 26 and 27 of the Coroner’s System Law of Lagos State 2007, empowered the coroner to summon any witness to assist him in his fact-finding mission, adding that there was nothing unusual in the summons extended to Joshua.
The judge said there was no evidence before the court that the coroner had been biased against the applicant and therefore dismissed the suggestion.
“The application is without merit. It fails in its entirety and is hereby dismissed,” Okunnu told the hearing at the Lagos High Court.
Komolafe, who has said he will give his verdict into the causes of the tragedy in two weeks, adjourned the inquest until March 12.