Witness: Structural Defects, Failure to Hire Engineer Caused Synagogue Building Collapse


By Akinwale Akintunde

A Consultant Civil Engineer, Dr. Olusegun Oyenuga yesterday, told an Ikeja High Court that the collapsed six-storey guesthouse owned by the Synagogue Church of all Nation (SCOAN) had no structural engineer.

Oyenuga, who is the first prosecution witness revealed this at the beginning of the trial of Trustees of SCOAN and the two engineers involved in the construction of the collapsed guesthouse, which led to the death of 116 persons, mostly South Africans on September 12, 2014.

The SCOAN Trustees, the two engineers, Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited were last month arraigned before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo on 111-count charge for their involvement in the collapsed building.

The 111 count charges preferred against the defendants by the Lagos State Government borders on criminal negligence, manslaughter and failure to obtain building permit.

When the trial which had suffered two adjournments eventually, kicked off yesterday, the witness who is a registered engineer of Council of Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) said the church to the best of his knowledge did not contract the services of structural engineer to oversee the construction of the collapsed guesthouse, hence the building may have collapsed due to some structural defects.

“There was no structural engineer for SCOAN to the best of our knowledge, during the compilation of the report into the cause of the collapse of the building; no structural engineer for the church came forward.

“The court needs to educate the public that every structure needs a structural engineer, a civil engineer is not necessarily a structural engineer unless registered by the Council of Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN)”, Oyenuga explained.

The witness, who is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers, a past President of the institution, listed his educational qualifications as an HND in Civil Engineering from the Yaba College of Technology in 1978, a first class Bsc degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Lagos in 1981.

Led in evidence by Mrs. Idowu Alakija, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Oyenuga told the court that findings of the committee revealed that there were some structural defects that were discovered which may have led to the building collapse.

“I was a member of the committee that generated a report on the SCOAN building collapse, COREN put up an advert that all engineers involved in the construction of the collapsed building to report to the COREN office at Ikoyi but no one showed up.

“I and other members of the committee went to the site of the building collapse to conduct some analysis and design tests.

“We requested drawings from the church and one Mr. G.A Akinfenwa came to our office to drop two documents; a structural drawing and a calculation and drawing for beam seven which was a major beam.

“These documents were of no use as it was not made available to the committee by SCOAN until after we had made our findings.

“Our investigations revealed that the Mr. G.A Akinfenwa sent to our office by SCOAN was not a registered member of COREN.

“Our findings revealed that the super structure was undersized in terms of the re-enforcement of the beams and columns, the foundation was also not adequate but it may not have been the cause of the collapse.

“On the bearing capacity of the soil, the maximum bearing capacity should be 800, and what should be ideally used for construction is 330 and the church used 550. This may have been responsible for the collapse.”

After Oyenuga’s testimony, lead counsel for the defence, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) requested for an adjournment to enable the defence prepare for cross-examination of the witness.

Justice Lawal-Akapo, subsequently adjourned the matter till June 20 for continuation of trial.