by Halima Babangida
The ability to bridle the tongue is one that ought to come in toe with the judicial vocation, especially since a recording device whirls inconspicuously in the background of every courtroom.
It was therefore a surprise to read the vindictive and threatening terminology used by Alexander Komolafe (the magistrate presiding over the Synagogue building collapse inquest) in the wake of T.B Joshua’s lawyers submitting a petition to the High Court questioning his jurisdiction.
Komolafe stated he was already writing “the bench warrant for that man”, snidely adding, “but let me give him a long rope to pull.”
“I don’t even need to listen to this application,” the News Agency of Nigeria reported him to have angrily said. “I can tell you that this letter will not get to anywhere. I count it dead already; it is not an issue.”
“That fellow, whoever he is, is not above the laws of the land and he dare not try it. Take that message back to him, that not on earth should he try to rubbish the court and never on earth should he try to use his hand to touch the sword of the state because if he does, he would have himself to blame.”
Let’s put personal opinions about T.B. Joshua aside for a moment. ‘That man’ or ‘that fellow’ is certainly not the manner in which a respected Nigerian cleric should be addressed, especially when pertinent questions are already being asked about the legitimacy of Lagos States intentions in the inquest.
The magistrate’s words portray personal grievances against The SCOAN leader, reservations that should never find a forum for public display in such an arena, particularly when bequeathed with such responsibility.
Such choice of expression casts aspersions onto the manner in which the inquest is being conducted and the legality of its ability to achieve a just verdict.
A report on the inquest yesterday observed that Komolafe “was always visibly harsh on witnesses who gave evidence which seemed to support the controlled demolition theory,” adding that “his disposition was suggestive of a calculated attempt by the state to persecute a particular party”.
Even the slightest hint of bias or bigotry ought not to be detected in the tone of a magistrate lest it appear his moral standing be compromised by personal prejudices (or perhaps even poisoned by political undertones).
A quick online search reveals that Komolafe is disgruntled with the current Nigerian government. On his public Facebook profile, the magistrate has written several damning comments which indicate his gross malcontent with the Jonathan-led administration.
In response to some online articles, he commented, “Will no one deliver Nigeria from the hands of this destructive party called PDP?” He further questioned, “Is this a country or a jungle,” deriding the government’s response to a Boko Haram massacre. “In Nigeria, the more you look, the less you see. What a country ruled by cankerworms, caterpillars and destroyers,” he angrily penned.
It is important to note that Komolafe also presided over the coroner’s inquest set up to ascertain the cause of deaths in the Dana airline crash the led to 165 casualties on 3rd June 2012.
Just over two years later, the inquest ruled that the investigation was inconclusive and as such could not apportion any blame. The incompetence of Lagos State’s rescue services in which ‘members of the public had to use bare hands in the rescue operations’ in the aftermath of the incident was surreptitiously hushed up.
Strangely enough, the inadequacies of the very same rescue operators under the Fashola-led Lagos government came to the fore in The Synagogue collapse and were, again, significantly downplayed in the inquest.
Could it be that Komolafe is a pawn strategically placed by Lagos State Government to ensure a witch-hint against Joshua to mask his paymaster’s shortfalls or pursue an even deeper political agenda?
Komolafe himself wrote in a Facebook post in May 2013, “Honesty is the best policy! Always tell the truth and damn the consequences… Lies, on the other hand, are a cage. Once uttered, you need the next lie to cover it up, and the next and the next and the next! How more imprisoned can that make one feel?”
May his own words serve as a guide in the handling of this sensitive inquest! The world is watching and the test of time remains the ultimate trumpeter of truth.