The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) on the ruling of a Lagos State High Court, dismissing its “no case submission” application.
Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of the lower court had on March 9, 2018 dismissed the “no case submission” by the church and the two engineers who constructed the collapsed building.
In his ruling, the judge said that the state had established a prima facie case against the defendants/ appellants to warrant their being called upon to defend themselves.
But dissatisfied with the court ruling, the defendants, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, charged alongside their companies – Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Ltd, approached the appellate court to upturn the cerdict.
Four Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) who represented them, Efe Akpofure, Titilola Akinlawon, Akeem Afolabi and Olalekan Ojo, argued against the position of the Director of Public Prosecution, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-Bey.
The lawyers argued before the three-man panel headed by Justice Justice Abraham Georgewill that there’s no prima facie evidence linking the appellants with the charges filed against them.
Besides, they contended that the state had not been able to establish the necessary ingredients of the offences against the appellants.
Specifically, Ojo told the appellate court that his client was charged for committing manslaughter in respect of certain named persons.
On her part, Mrs. Akinlawon told the panel that the prosecution presented not an iota of evidence and till now the prosecution had not pointed to any offence committed by the appellants.
The DPP (Shitta-Bey) urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the ruling of the lower court.
She said that “the pathologist examined the deceased and he was also in court to give evidence.”
The Lagos State government had sued the church over the guesthouse that collapsed on September 12, 2014.
The defendants’ appellants face 110-count charge of involuntary manslaughter while the Registered Trustees of SCOAN are charged with one-count of building without approval.
They were arraigned on April 19, 2016 and pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Upon the close of the prosecution’s case in October 2017, the defendants, rather than enter their defence, filed a “no-case’ submission”, contending that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.