Nigerian Prophet T.B. Joshua has launched a scathing attack against the verdict of the coroner’s court in Lagos which ruled the tragic collapse of a building within his church last year was due to structural failure.
A coroner on Wednesday said a megachurch run by popular Nigerian preacher TB Joshua should be prosecuted after a building collapse killed 116 people, most of them South Africans.
“The church must be investigated and prosecuted for not obtaining the relevant approval before embarking on the construction of the building,” Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe said in his ruling on last year’s tragedy.
“The church was culpable because of criminal negligence resulting in the death of the victims.”
The coroner’s inquest was called to determine the circumstances of the collapse of the guesthouse for foreign followers of Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations on September 12 last year.
Joshua, a self-styled faith healer known to his followers as “The Prophet” and “The Man of God”, claimed in the immediate aftermath that aerial sabotage or an explosion may have caused the collapse.
But a string of expert witnesses ruled out the theory.The hearing was told the guesthouse did not have planning permission and that extra floors were being added to the building at the time.
A statement by TB Joshua’s church released via their official Facebook page read, attributed to Barr. Olalekan Ojo, lead counsel to The SCOAN rejected this verdict.
The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) rejects the verdict of the coroner on the grounds that it is unreasonable, one-sided and biased,” a statement released via their official Facebook page read, attributed to Barr. Olalekan Ojo, lead counsel to The SCOAN. The church maintains its stand that the incident was as a result of sabotage,” the statement continued, further adding that the public should not be misled by media reports casting sensational headlines suggesting the church was liable for prosecution over ‘criminal negligence’.
“There was no finding that connected the incident with the lack of a building permit,” the statement proceeded, adding that the process of procuring the necessary approval was well underway and had been assessed and accepted by relevant government agencies before the incident.The church disagrees most vehemently with the finding that the incident was due to structural failure,” continued the strongly worded statement, insisting the verdict failed to consider substantial evidence which pointed to sabotage and ruled out structural failure.“It was a one-sided verdict which left many issues unaddressed and questions unanswered.”
Joshua’s supporters were vocal in their support of the ‘prophet’ in the thousands of comments posted beneath the statement, many insisting the verdict was the work of ‘the devil’.
“If you bury a lie, it will rot. If you bury the truth, it will rise,” wrote Opeyemi Oduwole. “We South Africans know what happened to the building; we know the truth. No matter how they lie, the truth will prevail,” added Bridget Mkhonto.
Joshua followed up on the statement by posting a video on Facebook highlighting the differences between controlled demolition and structural failure with the caption, “No matter how fast a lie runs, the truth will someday overtake it.
However Chief Magistrate Komolafe also dismissed Joshua’s claims in his ruling, which recorded that the victims likely died from multiple injuries, including fractured skulls, caused by the collapse.
“The collapse was as a result of structural failures,” he said, calling for the prosecution of the two engineers used by the church.
Chief Magistrate Komolafe noted that of the 32 witnesses called, TB Joshua, who counts powerful politicians across Africa among his flock, was the only one not to turn up.
“Among the individuals and organisations summoned, only Prophet TB Joshua refused to testify,” he told the court.
“He went to court, challenged the jurisdiction of the coroner to summon him and the high court ruled he should come. But he still went ahead to the appeal court to challenge the ruling.”
Source: Ihechukwu Njoku, a freelance journalist, Lagos, Nigeria/ENCA