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Court halts arraignment of Synagogue building engineers

02 December 2015, 07:21

Lagos - A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday restrained the Attorney-General of the state from arraigning two structural engineers of the Synagogue Church, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun.

Justice Ibrahim Buba granted the restraining order to allow the engineers to pursue their appeal on a judgment he had earlier delivered in the case.

He, however, warned that the applicants must ensure they pursued their appeal diligently, or same order would be vacated.

"In the circumstance of this case, the respondents’ nine-paragraph counter-affidavit has not shown that I should not exercise my discretion judicially and judiciously.

"I am inclined to grant this application with a caveat that the applicants must pursue the appeal diligently and vigorously so that justice can be done to all parties.

"The application for injunction pending appeal succeeds and is granted.

"If the applicant fails to pursue the appeal diligently, the order can be vacated by this court or the Court of Appeal," Buba held.

The engineers had been scheduled for arraignment on a 110-count charge of involuntary manslaughter.

They were charged over the death of 116 persons in the collapsed guest house of the synagogue church on September 12, 2014.

Also read: TB Joshua to be arraigned in Lagos over building collapse

The planned arraignment had been fixed for December 11, before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of the state high court in Ikeja.

The engineers had approached the court to suspend their arraignment pending the outcome of an appeal they filed against a judgment by Justice Buba delivered on November 9.

Buba had, in the judgment, dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the engineers, seeking to quash the verdict of a coroner’s inquest which indicted them of criminal negligence and called for their prosecution.

He had also refused to stop the police or the Lagos Attorney-General from acting upon the coroner’s verdict.

Dissatisfied with Buba’s judgment the engineers, through their lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, filed the appeal seeking to upturn the court’s decision.

Ojo had urged the court to halt the arraignment of his clients pending the determination of the appeal.

Counsel for the state, A.A. Bakare, in a counter-affidavit, opposed the application.

He argued that since the collapse of the six-storey building, there had been different suits attempting to stop the proceedings of the coroner.

Bakare had said that if the application was granted, it would amount to stopping the Attorney-General from performing his statutory functions.

Justice Buba, however, held that the engineers had a constitutional right to appeal.



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