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Coroner’s inquest visits scene of Synagogue building collapse

The Coroner’s inquest investigating the collapse of a guest house at the Synagogue Church of All Nations on Thursday visited the scene of the incident at Ikotun, a Lagos suburb.

According to City Voice newspaper, the visit was part of efforts by the inquest to unravel the cause of the Sept. 12 incident which killed about 115 people.

The newspaper reported that the inquest presided over by the coroner, Mr Oyetade Komolafe, was institute by the Lagos State Government under the Lagos State Coroner’s System Law No. 7 of 2007.

Komolafe was accompanied on the visit by Mr Toyin Ayinde, Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development and Prof. John Obafunwa, the state’s Chief Medical Examiner.

Others on the visit included Mr Akingbolahan Adeniran, Lagos State Counsel and representatives of the Nigeria Police Force, Red Cross Society and the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority.

 A total of 84 South Africans were among 115 people who died when a guesthouse for foreign followers of Prophet TB Joshua’s The Synagogue Church of All Nation (SCOAN) collapsed on September 12, according to the government in Pretoria.

South African authorities have criticised Joshua amid claims that more lives could have been saved if rescue workers had not been prevented from accessing the site for three days.

The entourage was received by the Chief Security Officer of the church, Mr Sunday Okojie, who conducted them around the scene of the incident.

Komolafe said the purpose of the visit was to get a physical view of where the collapse occurred in order to assist the inquest in reaching its findings.

“Like I said at the inaugural sitting, we are not here on a witch-hunt or to convict anybody. We are here for a fact-finding purpose and how we can ascertain the cause of the incident,” he said.

Komolafe directed the church to give the list of the people lodged at the collapsed building to the Lagos State forensic team led by Obafunwa to assist in identification of the victims.

“We want to be able to identify all the victims because those bodies will not be released to their relatives if we cannot identify them. They will be given mass burial, which is not appropriate,” he said.

Obafunwa, however, presented a formal letter addressed to the church requesting for the manifest, noting that it was needed for proper identification of the victims.

“In an investigation of this nature, we need to carry out our own tests. DNA analysis will not give you a name. There is nothing wrong with what we are asking for,” Obafunwa said.

Responding, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), counsel to the Synagogue Church, said that DNA of all the families involved in the incident was submitted to the pathologists more than two weeks ago.

Fagbemi reiterated that the church was ready to cooperate with the inquest to unravel the cause of the building collapse and that the said manifest would be provided by his client.

On his part, Okojie showed the team two Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras which captured the incident as well as a “mysterious” airplane flying very low around the building before it collapsed.

According to City Voice report the matter was adjourned till Oct. 24 for further hearing. 

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