Inquest opens into deadly Lagos church building collapse

October 13, 2014 12:54 pm
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A photo taken by Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on September 12, 2014 shows emergency workers transporting a man after he was pulled from the rubble of The Synagogue Church of All Nations/AFP
A photo taken by Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on September 12, 2014 shows emergency workers transporting a man after he was pulled from the rubble of The Synagogue Church of All Nations/AFP

LAGOS, October 13- A coroner’s inquest was opened and adjourned in Nigeria on Monday into the deaths of scores of people who were killed at the church of a popular evangelical preacher and televangelist.

Coroner Oyetade Komolafe told the hearing in Lagos that more time was needed to enable all parties to prepare evidence and present witnesses.

A visit to the site of the collapse, at TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), has been scheduled for Thursday before the inquest resumes on October 24, he added.

A total of 84 South Africans were among 115 people who died when a guesthouse for foreign followers of Joshua’s church collapsed on September 12, according to the government in Pretoria.

The 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.

Elsewhere, there have been calls for the preacher to be prosecuted after the Lagos State authorities suggested that additional floors were added to the building without strengthening the foundations.

But Komolafe said: “This is not a regular court. We are not here to convict anybody. We are here to find facts, find out what has happened, why, where, when and how so as to prevent a recurrence.”

He extended his sympathies to all the victims’ families, especially those from South Africa whom he called “brothers from black Africa”.

An appeal was also made to the South African authorities for family members to donate blood to enable all the victims to be identified and repatriated.

Joshua, a well connected and wealthy preacher whose followers call him “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”, was not present at the hearing but was represented by his legal team.

He has suggested that the building came down because of sabotage.

Lawyers were also present from the Lagos State authorities and on behalf of the South African government.

Komolafe said anyone who was ordered to give evidence but did not appear would be arrested.

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