A former Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, on Tuesday told an Ikeja High Court that the auditorium of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) does not have a valid building permit.
Ayinde, who is the second prosecution witness in the trial made this revelation before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo while being led in evidence by Mrs. Idowu Alakija, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the ongoing 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.
Ayinde told the court that when the court collapsed on that Friday, he got in touch with the District Officer of the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA) to confirm if the Synagogue Church had any building approval in the system.
“The Electronic Document Management System was searched and the only building approval for the church did not cover the site of the collapse building.
“The document, a five-storey building approval was meant for the church auditorium but as at the time of the collapse, the church auditorium had gone from five floors to eight floors.
“By the ministry’s definition, the approval the church had for the auditorium is no longer valid and there was no application for approval registered for the collapsed building.
“The Building Control Agency pasted their sticker on the auditorium which had surpassed the approved five-storey but there was no need for sanctions on the other building because it had already collapsed, Ayinde said.”
Ayinde, a consultant urban planner and a fellow of the Institute of Town Planners Registration Council of Nigeria explained his role during his tenure as a commissioner during the administration of the former Lagos State governor Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
“As a commissioner, I occupied a supervisory role over the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development and it’s three agencies.
“The three agencies are; the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA), Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) and the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA), he noted.”
The former commissioner said a building approval enabled owners of buildings to be adequately compensated when road construction or compulsory acquisition by the government takes place.
Ayinde told the court that on visiting the site of the collapse, there were too many first responders at the scene.
“I visited the site two days after the collapse as I was attending a retreat outside Lagos when the incident occurred.
“With me were the General Managers of LASPPPA and LASBCA as well as the Commander of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) as an advanced team to receive Fashola.
“The first thing we noticed were there were too many first responders, many of whom were church members whom we ordered out of the site because they were clogging the responsibilities of the rescuers.
“I gave a directive that the rescue work should stop at ground zero to enable the material testing laboratory to conduct tests on the foundation and columns on the debris”, he said.
Justice Lawal-Akapo however the matter till June 22 for continuation of trial.