Pastor T.B. Joshua failed today to appear at a coroner's inquest, intended to determine how 116 people were killed in a September 12 building collapse at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos.
The pastor was called to present evidence that supported his claim that the church was attacked by terrorists flying over the building, something experts have since ruled out. The pastor was also facing allegations that members of his church thwarted emergency rescue operations the day of the tragedy.
“The first three days (after the collapse) were marred by the so-called church sympathizers and the crowd,” said the head of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, during the inquest. “By the time we attained momentum after 96 hours a lot of things had gone bad.”
“The crowd impeded our operation. They did not allow our personnel and equipment to come in. They frustrated the emergency workers at the scene,” he furthered. "Instead of allowing trained rescue workers with specialist equipment to search for survivors, only church members and volunteers were allowed to pick through the rubble," he said.
Oke-Osanyintolu additionally claimed that SCOAN staff were not forthcoming with details that would aid an effective investigation. “We were not allowed to do documentation. Photographs of the incident were not allowed," he said. "We asked for the manifest to know the number and identities of the people in the building, we were not given. We asked for the building plan, we were not given.”
The coroner, Oyetade Komolafe, said last week that Joshua would face arrest if he dismissed the inquest, but Joshua's lawyers are claiming that he, as well as the building's contractors, never received summons to appear.
“We don’t want the impression to be created that the prophet is avoiding the court," Olalekan Ojo, Joshua's lawyer, explained. "The Man of God has not been personally served the witness summons. He was unavoidably absent when the sheriff went for the service."
Despite this, the lawyer did not accept the summons on his client's behalf.
Vanguard Nigeria reports that prior inspections indicated that the buildings were structurally defective, bearing more than they were designed to.
“We want Prophet Joshua to know that the court is not persecuting anybody but (trying) to find the truth. He should come," the coroner said.
“As a prophet of God that he claims to be, he must not do anything that will make him to be at variance with the law.”