By Moji Eniola
Ikeja – The Lagos State Government on Thursday closed its case in the ongoing trial of two engineers of the collapsed six-storey guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations and the trustees of the church.
Ms P.K. Shitta-Bey, the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) told an Ikeja High Court that the defence team had finished the cross-examination of the eight witnesses in the case.
“We will like to inform the court that this is the end of the prosecution’s case,” Shitta-Bey told the court after the defence team finished cross-examining the eight and last prosecution witness in a long court session that lasted from 10.41 a.m. to 4.36 p.m.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the two engineers — Akinbela Fatiregun and Oladele Ogundeji — are facing trial alongside their companies — Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company, Jandy Trust Ltd and the trustees of the church.
They are facing a 111-count charge of gross negligence and criminal manslaughter over the collapse of a six-storey guest house to which they plead not guilty.
The Sept. 12, 2014 building collapse led to the death of 116 persons, 85 of who were South Africans.
Earlier during proceedings, Mr Linus Gubbi, an investigator with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Abuja, told the court that Synagogue Church had procured a false prototype of collapsed guest house.
Gubbi, an Assistant Chief Superintendent of Investigations, has worked with the Special Duties Department of the ICPC for 14 years.
The investigator had said the ICPC had received a petition forwarded to them by the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).
The petition alleged that one Mr George Akinfenwa had illegally used the COREN registration no. R8718 and seal belonging to an engineer, Mr Omotayo Shogo, to create the false prototype.
He said the church had allegedly connived with the fourth defendant (Oladele Ogundeji) to create a false prototype of the guest house after its collapse to present to the Lagos State Government at the Coroner’s Inquest as the original prototype.
While being led in evidence by Shitta-Bey, he said:“One Mr George Akinfenwa and one Mr George who are both at large, met with Ogundeji to come up with a prototype of the collapsed building.
“Their meeting was held at Ade Super Hotel in Akure, Ondo State.
“The three men came to Lagos and had a meeting with one Mr Ikechi, who is the secretary of T.B Joshua, where they discussed the modalities of coming up with a prototype.
“It was agreed that Akinfenwa would be paid N5 million and Ogundeji who would head the team at the Coroner’s court established by Lagos State Government to investigate the collapse, would be paid N25 million.”
Gubbi told the court that fake COREN stamps and seals attributed to Shogo were used to authenticate the prototype of the building.
“Akinfenwa, George and Ogundeji came up with the prototype design of the Synagogue Church modeled after the collapsed building.
“We found out that the stamp and seal used by Akinfenwa was procured at Area 11, Garki, Abuja, and it actually belongs to Engineer Omotayo Shogo, who is a mechanical engineer and not a structural engineer.”
Gubbi said that Akinfenwa and Ajala are currently on the run and efforts by the Department of State Security (DSS) and the police to apprehend them were unsuccessful.
The investigator after his testimony was cross-examined by the four lawyers to the defendants.
While answering questions from Mr Oluseye Diyan, counsel to the trustees of SCOAN, Gubbi told the court that he could not recollect the number of persons he interviewed during his investigations.
He admitted not finishing his final report of his investigation due to the fact that two suspects (Akinfenwa and Ajala) are currently at large.
Responding to questions from Chief Efe Akpofure (SAN), representing Hardrock Construction Company Ltd, the investigator admitted not meeting Mr Ikechi, the Secretary to Prophet T.B Joshua in person while investigating the case.
He noted that he never visited the premises of SCOAN neither did he investigate the source of the N5 million and N25 million allegedly given to Akinfenwa and Ogundeji by the church.
While being cross-examined by Mrs Titi Akinlawon, counsel to Fatiregun, a document which was allegedly the original prototype of the SCOAN building was shown to him which he did not recognise.
Akinlawon told the investigator that the document was the prototype design of the guest house used by the church before the building collapsed.
While fielding questions from Mr Olalekan Ojo, counsel to Ogundeji and Jandy Trust Ltd, Gubbi told the court that during investigations he went to Area 11 of Garki, Abuja, where the seal and stamps of the false prototype were allegedly forged but could not locate the printer who was involved in the forgery.
Gubbi also added that the results of his investigation were sourced mainly from the statements and interviews of the suspects as well as an analysis of the evidence he had gathered.
Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo adjourned the case until Oct. 5, Oct. 6, Oct. 19, Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 for opening of defence. (NAN)