TB Joshua and two contractors facing trial for criminal negligence over a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue church that killed 116 worshippers, mostly South Africans, were on Monday absent in the Lagos high court.
The outcome at the court prompted the judge to adjourn the case, which followed a coroner’s ruling in July that blamed Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) and two engineers for the September 12, 2014 tragedy.
In his verdict, Coroner Oyetade Komolafe attributed the collapse to structural failures and said the church should be prosecuted as the six-storey guesthouse did not have planning permission.
According to Joshua, the collapse was caused by a mysterious “hovering” aircraft seen over the building beforehand or a controlled explosion.
He has however, repeatedly failed to appear at the inquest.
Joshua was again absent at court on Monday, as were the two engineers who have called the coroner’s verdict “unreasonable, one-sided and biased”.
One member of the church’s trustees was present at the hearing where it was told the engineers, who have unsuccessfully tried to obtain an injunction to prevent their arrest and prosecution, had not been served with a summons.
Judge Lawal Akapo said he was unhappy at the defendants’ absence, noting that he would not tolerate any unnecessary delays of the trial.
“It appears the defendants are not mindful that this is a criminal proceeding. This is a criminal trial and a sensitive matter like this one should be given accelerated hearing,” he said.
Judge Akapo directed the defense team to provide the court with the engineers’ addresses within 72 hours and adjourned the case until December 11.
By Patrick Aigbokhan