After 6 months of silence, the SCOAN trial finally got underway again today – for a few minutes, until being adjourned for another month until February 17th due to a prosecution witness being delayed and not being able to attend. Another delay, after so many other delays – but at least the case hasn’t been forgotten. Hopefully 2017 will be the year the victims and families finally get justice.
The collapse building that killed 115 people
Two years ago today, 115 people seeking healing and an encounter with God died when the building they were staying in collapsed on top of them. Countless others were injured, some never being able to walk or work again. In July 2015, the coroner released his report – proving that the building collapsed was inevitable due to a litany of serious structural failings, for example:
- Inadequate beams of 750mm by 225mm (should have been 900mm by 300mm)
- Inadequately reinforced columns (should have been reinforced with 12 x Y25 bars or 20 x Y20mm bars. Instead they used 10 x Y20 bars (as seen in the video released by SCOAN).
- Inadequate bearing pressure for the central column due to the 2m x 2m x 0.9m foundations.
- Failure to introduce rigid zones for bracing the structure and did not design the frames as an unbraced structure.
- Failure to provide movement joints that could have absorbed any movement due to creep, contraction, expansion and differential settlement etc..
- 8 out of the 12 main beams of the structure failed because they were undersized, under-reinforced (both in tension and shear), the tension bars were poorly anchored to the column supports and 8 x Y20 was used instead of 14 x Y20.
- The ground floor columns were slender and readily gave in to buckling
The coroner Oyetade Komolafe ruled that SCOAN were criminally negligent, and should be investigated and prosecuted, “The church was culpable because of criminal negligence resulting in the death of the victims” (Source: BBC).
In April 2016, after many attempts by SCOAN to disrupt or stall the court proceedings, charges were finally read. The charges are “failure to obtain building approval contrary to Section 75 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State 2010 and involuntary manslaughter causing death contrary to Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011“. In June 2016, the trial started, but after a couple of days it went silent without conclusion. SCOAN have not been cleared of the charges, but nor have they been found guilty – the whole case has gone silent.
Where is the justice for the many families who have lost loved ones, or those whose lives will never be the same again due to their horrific injuries? Come on Lagos Stage Government, you can do better than this – show your authority and bring this case to a conclusion. Even if you are a SCOAN supporter, surely you can agree with us that it is not in SCOAN’s favour to have this unconcluded criminal investigation over their head? Reports show that visitors to SCOAN has reduced by up to 90%. Either SCOAN is guilty and should face the consequences of their lethal actions, or they should have their name cleared. This limbo situation is in nobodies favour (except SCOAN, if they know they are guilty).
Lagos State have revealed SCOAN didn’t have a valid building permit for any of their buildings
Day 1 of the criminal trial against SCOAN and their engineers revealed the bombshell that SCOAN had constructed a 6 storey building without the services of a structural engineer. Day 2 (20th June) revealed that SCOAN was only in possession of a single building permit, but that was now invalid:
“The Electronic Document Management System was searched and the only building approval for the church did not cover the site of the collapse building. “The document, a five – storey building approval was meant for the church auditorium but as at the time of the collapse, the church auditorium had gone from five floors to eight floors. “By the Ministry’s definition, the approval the church had for the auditorium is no longer valid and there was no application for approval registered for the collapsed building (emphasis ours, source).
So not a single building at SCOAN has a valid permit. That means none of them will have been properly inspected, and given the shocking revelation that SCOAN seem to think structural engineers are optional, none of these buildings will be safe. According to former Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development Mr. Olutoyin Adedamola Ayinde “what SCOAN did constituted a breach, thus rendering the earlier approval invalid and the punishment [is] demolition under physical planning laws of Lagos State” (source).
So if Lagos State uphold the law, the entire SCOAN compound has to be bulldozered. If this doesn’t happen, it is only a matter of time before more people are killed. Incredibly, even the SCOAN website documents the fact that this is the forth building collapse they have experienced. On their “About The SCOAN” page, it says “Before moving to our present position, The SCOAN has had three previous locations. The roof of the first church was blown off by a storm, the second church was washed away by a flood while the third church also collapsed due to severe weather conditions.” Buildings built to the correct standards do not get washed away in a flood. We hope and pray those held captive will have an opportunity to leave before things get even more messy or more people lose their life.
SCOAN auditorium during busier times
A few days ago the trial finally got underway, and day one revealed a massive bombshell. The six storey building that collapsed, was built without the services of a structural engineer. Yes, that’s right – six storeys built without involving anyone who is trained to know whether or not the structure will be safe. This is a major blow to SCOAN that will be hard to recover from, and is likely only the first of many other revelations. Continue reading
The collapse building that killed 116 people
Yesterday the trial of SCOAN trustees and the building engineers finally made a start, and you’ve got to hand it to SCOAN – they’ve bought top of the range lawyers. Finally a use for all the money TB Joshua has snaffled away in offshore accounts. No sooner had the first witness taken to the stand, and SCOAN lawyers objected due to the fact they had not been provided with the witnesses statement in advance. Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo upheld the argument, insisted all witness statements should be served to them, and adjourned the matter until June the 1st.
The Cameroon Concorde website has a good overview of the court proceedings from last Tuesday. Apparently the lawyers representing SCOAN and the contractors made one more attempt at stalling the proceedings, but Justice Lawal-Akapo overruled them and ordered that the charges be read in court, noting that criminal trials are to be heard expeditiously. The charges have been read to the defendants (SCOAN trustees and the two engineers), these charges are “failure to obtain building approval contrary to Section 75 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State 2010 and involuntary manslaughter causing death contrary to Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011“. All defendants have pleaded not guilty.
The two engineers are now being held in Kirikiri prison pending trial which will start on May 19th.
Finally it appears the court are doubling down on their effort to follow through on the recommendations of the coroner to charge the SCOAN trustees and engineers with criminal negligence (and possibly culpable manslaughter). The Nigerian press are reporting that the engineers are now in custody awaiting trial, and the SCOAN trustees have been arraigned.
Now the engineers are in custody, they will now have nothing to gain from keeping quiet about any arrangement they may have had that could implicate SCOAN. Liability between the contractor and SCOAN lies in the communication between the two over the development. Poor documentation of the same will work against the contractor more than SCOAN in my opinion because they are the more knowledgeable of the two. As such, you can bet if the prosecutors focus on the contractors, TB Joshua will never rest easy until the case is concluded because the contractors’ first line of defense will be to shift as much liability as possible to SCOAN (these issues are explored in more depth here).
Let’s see what happens, and hopefully everyone can agree that the bereaved families deserve justice and closure, and this court case is the best way of that being achieved. God knows the truth, let’s pray that it finally comes out.