Witness: Aircraft Not the Cause of Synagogue Building Collapse

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Akinwale Akintunde

A former Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, wednesday told an ikeja High Court that available evidence showed that the aircrafts which flew over the six-storey guest house belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) did not caused its collapsed as claimed by the church.

Ayinde, said this at the continuation of 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 charge preferred against the defendants by the Lagos State Government borders on criminal negligence, manslaughter and failure to obtain building permit.
Ayinde, the second prosecution witness while being led in evidence by Mrs. Idowu Alakija, the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) said during his visit to the collapsed site with with Governor Fashola alongside two General Managers of the agencies under his Ministry, the General Overseer of the church gave them a CCTV recording of an aircraft hovering over the building shortly before it’s collapse.
“My office wrote to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) seeking advice on the CCTV recording we received.

“We got the flight corridor and coordinates as well as a report from the NCAA which showed that the distance between the aircraft and the top of the building is between 137 and 288 meters.

“We found that the aircraft were not flying directly over the building”, Ayinde said.
According to the former commissioner, the least distance from the top of the building to the nearest aircraft was 137 meters which is the equivalent of four Nitel buildings placed on top of each other.
The witness also explained that evidence was collected from the site during his visit with Fashola.

“We took pictures of the site as well as did a video recording of the visit of the delegation to the site”, he further explained.

Alakija, sought to tender the documents mentioned by Ayinde as evidence to the court.

“My Lord, we seek to tender the application for building approval for the Synagogue Church auditorium, letter from the NCAA, flight path coordinates, the survey of the collapsed building as well as pictures as evidence”, the prosecutor said.

The defence led by Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), however, objected to the tendering of the documents.

“My Lord, we oppose the tendering of these documents as they were just served to us as additional proof of evidence.

”We need to have foreknowledge of what is in those documents to enable us confer with our clients”, he said.

Justice Lawal-Akapo, told the counsel to come up with dates for adjournment to enable them examine the documents.

The lawyers, however, could not agree on a date for adjournment and the judge had to impose a date on them.

“I waited patiently for counsel to come up with a date but the couldn’t, I have no choice but to impose these dates on counsel”, the judge said.

Justice Lawal-Akapo has however adjourned the matter till June 27, 28 and 29 for continuation of trial.