Court Admits Recording of Synagogue Building Collapse as Evidence


Akinwale Akintunde

The footage of the collapsed six-storey guesthouse owned by Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) was played in the courtroom yesterday at the resumed trial of the Trustees of SCOAN and the two engineers involved in the construction of the collapsed guesthouse.

The video clip, which admissibility was seriously opposed by the defence team on Monday, was played after Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo in a ruling ordered that the footage be admitted as evidence.

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 arraigned by the Lagos State Government on 111-count charge for their involvement in the collapsed building, which led to the death of 116 persons, mostly South Africans on September 12, 2014.

The 111-count charge preferred against the defendants borders on criminal negligence, manslaughter and failure to obtain building permit.

The prosecution led by Mrs. Idowu Alakija, the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) had sought to tender the CD purportedly containing a Close Circuit Television (CCTV) recording of an aircraft hovering above the building moments before its collapse, through the second prosecution witness, Mr. Oluwatoyin Ayinde, a former Lagos State Commissioner of Physical Planning and Urban Development.

The defence led by Chief E.L Akpofure had objected to the footage being admitted as evidence because it was computer generated, irrelevant and a copy of the original.

Akpofure had also noted that the prosecution witness in his evidence had said he could not identify the contents of the compact disc (CD) containing the footage “until he watches the CD to ascertain its contents.”

However, Justice Lawal-Akapo dismissed the objection of the defence for lack of merit.
“I find no merit in the objections, they are overruled, the video clip and accompanying documents are admitted in evidence,” he said.
The judge said the prerogative of a court in admitting a document into evidence was its relevance.

“For a document to be tendered in evidence, the guiding principle is relevance and not custody, the questions to be asked is whether the document is needed and admissible in law the judge ruled.”
During the cross-examination of Ayinde by Akpofure, the former commissioner told the court that he visited the site of the building collapse twice.
Justice Lawal-Akapo, adjourned the case to 10, 11 and 12 October for continuation of trial.