The appearance and testimony of the founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, before a coroner would not harm him, a Federal High Court in Lagos ruled, Tuesday.
Temitope Joshua (popularly known as T.B Joshua) is billed to testify on Wednesday at an ongoing coroner’s inquest into the circumstances surrounding the collapse of a guest house in his church.
Over 115 people, mostly foreigners, died when the six storey building belonging to the church collapsed on September 12.
Last week, Olukoya Ogungbeje, a Lagos-basedbased lawyer, had approached the court praying for an order restraining the coroner from conducting further proceedings on the inquest.
The lawyer also sought an interim injunction restraining Mr. Joshua from appearing before the coroner.
But on Tuesday, Ibrahim Buba, the judge, ruled that the interim injunction was not necessary since Mr. Joshua was not personally affected by the inquest.
According to the judge, Mr. Joshua is neither a party to the filed suit nor is he held in detention.
“If Ogungbeje was the party summoned before the coroner, then the issue of a restraining order will arise, but in this situation, how can I restrain the whole world?” Mr. Buba said.
“The applicant has not shown that he will suffer any danger if the restraining order is not granted, and so, I will hear this case on merit on Thursday, November 6, and I will not grant any restraining order. This is the ruling of the court.”
Tuesday’s ruling was the final nail in the coffin following weeks of scheming and strategies by Mr. Joshua’s camp to avoid him testifying before the coroner.
Last Wednesday, an angry Oyetade Komolafe, the coroner, threatened to arrest the church leader if he fails to honour the invitation to appear before him.
“If he doesn’t come, he will be arrested, please advise him,” Mr. Komolafe had told the church’s counsel at the inquest.
“The sheriff said he has served him (a witness summons) and I have the evidence of that. If he cannot come on that day, he should tell us why he cannot come.”
The magistrate was responding to an earlier suggestion by Lateef Fagbemi, the church’s counsel, that only people who would be of relevance to the court ought to be invited.
“I have gone through all the depositions filed, no mention has been made of Joshua,” Mr. Fagbemi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had said.
“I will suggest that it is those who can be of assistance from the SCOAN that will be invited.”
The next day, the inquest began with Mr. Komolafe walking, Nelson Okedinachi, who is in the team that filed the suit at the federal high court, out of the room for seeking to inform the coroner of the suit they had filed.
Afterwards, the coroner took time to clarify to Olalekan Ojo, who had announced his appearance for the Synagogue Church, that he did not summon the church.
“Nobody summoned the Synagogue church. The court summoned T.B Joshua and when the time comes, he will appear,” Mr. Komolafe had told the counsel.
“Because I’ve noticed you always announce your appearance for the Synagogue church.”
Mr. Ogungbeje had joined as defendants in his suit the Lagos State Government, the Attorney General of the state, and Mr. Komolafe (the coroner).
The lawyer had argued that the composition of the Coroner’s inquest was a negation of the principle of natural justice and Section 36 of the Constitution, and as such it was unconstitutional, null and void.
The lawyer had further argued that the Lagos State government, who instituted the inquest, had already indicted Mr. Joshua and his church by claiming that he was not given approval to put additional floors on the collapsed building.
“The Lagos State Building Control Agency even went ahead to seal up the main building of the church,” Mr. Ogungbeje had said.
“The General Manager of the agency even said in the papers and I quote him as follows ‘we have investigated and found that they had no approval for the additional structures. Even the main church which they have added about three floors on was sealed two days ago.’”