By Akinwale Akintunde
Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of an Ikeja High Court has adjourned till April 19, the trial of the Synagogue Board of Trustees, the engineers that constructed the collapsed building and their companies.
The court fixed the date yesterday, to rule on separate applications filed by the defendants through their counsel, seeking to stay proceedings of the High Court pending their appeal at the Court of Appeal.
The Lagos State Government had late last year slammed a 111-count criminal charges against Trustees of the church, the two engineers, Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company; and Jandy Trust Limited for their involvement in the September 12, 2014 collapse of a six-storey guest house belonging to the church, which led to the death of 116 persons. But the defendants are yet to be arraigned on criminal charge due to various pre-trial applications filed by them.
When the matter came up yesterday, Mrs. Titi Akinlawon (SAN), counsel Fatiregun in an application dated March 3 prayed for an order adjourning further hearing pending the determination of her application before the Court of Appeal.
Arguing the application, she said, “The essence of the application for adjournment is that the High Court ruled that the hearing notices served on the fifth defendant was proper, a ruling we are appealing at the higher court.
“We also have before the court an application for stay of proceedings to await the decision of the Court of Appeal.
“On this strength, I appeal that an adjournment be granted by this court”.
Counsel to Ogundeji and Jandy Trust Limited, Chief E.L Akpofure (SAN) in an application dated Feb. 17 objected to the inclusion of Jandy Trust Limited as one of the defendants.
Akpofure argued that there was no evidence against the 2nd defendant (Jandy Trust Limited) and it was never mentioned by the witnesses for the state.
“There is nowhere where it was stated that the second defendant was awarded the building contract.
“The argument of the state that the trial of the second defendant to go on holds no water”, he said.
“I urge your lordship to quash this information relating to the second defendant as there was no mention of my client in the proof of evidence”, he submitted.
Counsel to the trustees of SCOAN, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) agreed with the submission of Akpofure that Jandy Trust Limited should be excluded from the charge.
“I will submit that the concept of justice has no sentimental connotation, there have been no mention of the second defendant in the proof of evidence”, Fagbemi said.
Responding to the defence arguments, Mrs. Idowu Alakija, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) objected to their applications for adjournment, adding that Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) 2011 guided the proceedings of this court.
“It’s ordinary and natural application disallows a stay of proceedings on criminal matters to be entertained before any judgment be given.
“The rules of the Section are clear, the provision may seem novel but it was created to stop frivolous cases and applications until judgment is given.
“Since we filed the information, so many applications have been filed by the defence, some were successful while others were withdrawn.
“In finality, I submit that the rules guiding proceedings in this court is the ACJL 2011 and we are urging your Lordship to dismiss the application of the fifth defendant”, Alakija submitted.