The final death toll for the SCOAN building collapse is now at 115. The building was illegally constructed, with a further 3 floors added without approval. Furthermore – it now transpires that the building didn’t even have “Occupiers Liability Insurance”, something that is required by law for public buildings.
Section 65(1) of Insurance Act, 2003 provides that “Every public building shall be insured with a registered insurer against the hazards of collapse, fire, earthquake, storm and flood.”
Despite having blatantly broken the law in a way that killed 115 people, and maimed many more, TB Joshua remains a free man. A growing number of people believe this is unacceptable and are putting pressure on the Nigerian authorities to demonstrate that TB Joshua is not above the law.
Open letter from 5 Nigerian academics
5 Nigerian academics signed an open letter saying it was time to arrest and prosecute TB Joshua because:
Mr. Joshua has done everything humanly possible to cover up the truth about this tragedy. First, in the first three days after the incident, he illegally barred officials of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) from accessing the site and rescuing survivors. Second, while this illegal interdiction was in effect, Mr. Joshua attempted to dictate the narrative and deflect possible culpability by blaming the incident on a mysterious ‘small plane’ which had purportedly hovered above his church complex moments before the collapse. Third, as public anger mounted in South Africa, Mr. Joshua declared the dead ‘martyrs of faith’ and sought to change the subject by promising to ‘take his teachings’ to the country every month for the foreseeable future. Fourth, an audio recording has just emerged of Mr. Joshua paying a gathering of journalists N50, 000 each in exchange for suppressing the truth and privileging his version of events. The recording, whose authenticity has not been challenged, was released by Mr. Nicholas Ibekwe, a Premium Times correspondent who was present at the meeting.
They then turn their attention to the Nigerian authorities
If Mr. Joshua has comported himself as one above the law, it is precisely because the Nigerian state has offered him every license. [...] The site should have been barricaded by the relevant authorities—the police, town planning, etc.— to secure evidence, given that the presumption ought to be that even if it is not immediately clear that a crime has been committed, something definitely has been remiss in the entire tragedy. Getting to the root of the matter should be the only concern next to solicitations for the welfare of the survivors.
Mr. Joshua is a person of interest, not for his callousness, but for his cynical and persistent attempts to obliterate the truth and pervert the course of justice.
Lawyer accuses Lagos state of giving TB Joshua preferential treatment
Human rights lawyer Samuel Ilori points out that
Section 74(1) of the Physical Planning and Development Law of Lagos State states inter alia that at any time there is a collapsed building within the state. Wherever it is discovered that there is a negligence on the part of the owner or the developer, that land will be confiscated and whoever is at the other side of the law will be prosecuted. [...] Every other collapsed building in Lagos State have been taken over immediately evacuation has been done. So all these time that they are trying to buy for the man, we are not going to wait. (source)
Illori wants TB Joshua charged with culpable homicide, because “he knew very well that that foundation that contain two storey building cannot take six storey building, yet he allowed it to go on”. He has written to the Lagos state governor, giving him 7 days to take necessary action:
Failure to which we will be left with no other option than to approach the competent court of jurisdiction for an order of mandamus for your good office to implement the law you signed in 2010 without delay. (source)
Families of South African victims intend to sue
A South African man who lost his sister in the tragedy has written an open letter calling on other families who lost loved ones to unite and:
- Advocate for the banning of TB Joshua from visiting South Africa and SADC,
- Advocate for the betterment of the lives of the children orphaned by the heart-breaking but deliberate collapse of that building,
- Educate individuals and communities on early identification of tendencies of being possessed working in partnership with the faith community,
- Unite and advocate for the de-registration of Emmanuel TV by ICASA
- Advocate for the suspension of what’s left of the ‘diplomatic ties’ between Nigeria and South Africa until an investigation is concluded on the collapse of that building and conviction of TB Joshua (as the person who bears the ultimate responsibility for his church) is done,
- Institute civil claims against TB Joshua.
The BBC are reporting that at least one other family has joined his cause, and they are preparing to take legal action against TB Joshua.
ANC Youth League say TB Joshua should be denied visa for South Africa
Nine days after the disaster, when TB Joshua finally started showing sympathy for the dead, he pledged to visit South Africa every month in honour of the victims. We would be very suprised if he kept his word, especially after he so quickly forgot his pledge to personally take annointed water to Ebola affected countries. However, if he does follow through with the pledge, the ANC Youth League are doing everything in their power to ensure he isn’t allowed to enter the country:
“TB Joshua should not be allowed to come to South Africa until we know what happened to our fellow countrymen at his church, We will make sure we engage with the department of international relations and co-operation to make sure they do not issue him with a South African visa.” (source)
It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next few days, and there are encouraging signs that the pressure is being felt by the authorities, there are reports that the investigation is moving forward and that the outcome could be TB Joshua being charged with culpable homicide. There is a part of us that has sympathy for the government, prosecuting him will not be easy given the huge number of dedicated followers he has. Already some are saying that even if he is imprisoned, this will only put him in the same category as the apostles who were also imprisoned (though I don’t recall any being imprisoned for causing the death of 115 people). However difficult this situation may be, it is hard to see any justification for the closed door meetings with Lagos governor, the president visiting to “commiserate” with TB Joshua, or the fact that services are still going on at SCOAN despite evidence that other buildings are illegally constructed. Let’s pray that justice is done, and the bereaved families get the answers that they are seeking.