by Adedayo Ademuwagun
The coroner’s inquest concerning the Synagogue church building collapse continued Thursday at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja. The police and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency were present to bear witness.
The Ikotun police chief CSP Haruna Alaba told the court that the police arrived at the scene on time. He said he and his men did well to control traffic and manage the crowd that trooped to the scene, so that emergency responders could do their job. He also testified that the church’s volunteers responded well to rescue survivors before emergency people arrived.
When asked if any people at the church impeded emergency men from doing their work at the site on any day, Alaba said he wasn’t aware of this, and that no one reported this matter to him or his men.
Last week, the NEMA chief Ibrahim Farinloye said that the church people prevented him and his men from entering the site or doing any work on that first day.
This YNaija journalist was also attacked by the people who blocked the gate to the collapse site on September 13, the day after the collapse. This happened while police watched and did nothing.
The church lawyers also questioned Alaba about if the police’s anti-bomb squad had been to the scene to see whether the collapse occurred due to explosives. The Lagos state’s lawyers also asked him if police investigations were going on regarding the church’s claim that the collapse occurred because of an attack.
The police boss said the case was transferred to the Department of Criminal Investigation the day the accident happened, and so he had limited information about it. He also said he wasn’t certain about if the anti-bomb squad had visited the scene. He said he’d have to check the records at the police station. The coroner asked him to provide copies of the records by Monday.
Dr. Femi Osanyintolu was also grilled today by the church’s lawyers. They played a CCTV video clip to start the questioning.
The short clip shows people at the gate of the site, and a policeman is also shown briefly. Then a LASEMA bus shows up and the people at the gate calmly open the gate for them to go in. The LASEMA boss is entering the premises on foot, alongside the bus. The video is dated September 12, implying that the clip was captured on the same day the accident happened.
The church lawyers claimed that LASEMA didn’t come with any emergency equipment other than their bus, as shown in the clip, but the LASEMA boss protested this claim. He said this happened on the second day and that their equipment had already been let into the site before the scene shown in the clip happened. He confirmed it was him in the clip, but he insisted that the scene didn’t happen on September 12 but on the next day.
He said the church people at the gate blocked him and his men and didn’t let them enter the premises to do their job, contrary to what the clip showed.
The coroner informed the church’s lawyers that since they’ve brought the church’s CCTV evidence, he’d like to see the whole CCTV recording starting moments before the collapse to the seventh day afterwards. He said he wants to see everything that the church’s CCTV captured in the seven-day period.
Meanwhile, some students were at the court today in support of the church and TB Joshua. Some elderly people were also there wearing “old people welfare” t-shirts. They came in support of the church leader. They praised him for his “philanthropy” and “for helping us even when the government isn’t doing so.” Outside, there were also people bearing pro-Synagogue placards.
This inquest is an inquiry into the manner and cause of the building crash, and it’s headed by Alexander Komolafe. It’s not a regular court in that people aren’t being prosecuted and there are no trials. The purpose of the coroner’s sittings is simply to find out the facts and establish the truth.
The inquest will continue on November 19.