The founder, Synagogue Church of All Nations, Prophet Temitope Joshua, on Wednesday failed to appear before the coroner, Magistrate O. A. Komolafe, probing the cause of the September 12 building collapse in the church.
The church lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, told the coroner that Joshua failed to appear before the coroner because he was not served any summon.
Consequently, Komolafe said another appearance date would be given to Joshua when the court reconvenes on Thursday (today).
Joshua had been slated to appear before the coroner on Wednesday along with the contractor who built the collapsed six-storey building.
But speaking for them, Ojo told the court that neither the prophet nor the contractor had received any invitation from the court.
He said he saw the need to set the record straight in order not to cause confusion and following a warning by the magistrate that the instrumentality of the law would be invoked against any invited witness who fails to appear.
Ojo said, “May I with respect inform this court that as at today no summons to appear before this honourable court has been personally served on Prophet T.B. Joshua.
“I do not want a situation where this court might be misled to believe that a witness summons has been served on the prophet. Monday was the first time that the bailiff of the court attempted to effect service on Prophet T.B. Joshua but unfortunately the prophet was not around.
“Being the chief mourner he had been getting in touch with families of those who lost their loved ones.”
According to Ojo, all that the bailiff was able to achieve was to give the summons to one of the church’s evangelists, which he said was not the same thing as serving Joshua in his personal capacity.
“No bailiff can depose to an affidavit that he effected service on Prophet T.B. Joshua,” Ojo maintained.
He added, “I don’t even think the contractor could have been served because the court does not have the address of the contractor.”
In response, Komolafe said he found it difficult to believe that it was difficult to effect personal service of the witness summons on Joshua.
He then suggested that Ojo should receive it on his behalf but the lawyer said he was not permitted by the law to do so.
“The power of this court as to the issuance of summons are regulated by statute and what I have done so far is out of abundance of caution. With respect, the law does not allow me to accept a witness summons, the violation of which will attract sanction,” the lawyer said.
While conceding to Ojo’s argument, Komolafe however issued a warning that Joshua should make himself reachable.
He said as a man of God and a leader he should respect the law of the land and lead by example.
He said, “I have done the needful, but a word is enough for the wise. Personally, the court would not want to inflict more pains on the prophet, being the chief mourner, but he too should help the court by not putting himself at variance with the law.”
He charged the chief security officer of the church to ensure that the bailiff was taken to Joshua’s office the next time he visited the church.
“When next the man is there, I don’t want to hear stories, you have to take him there. When is he going to preach in your church? I will ask the DPO at Ikotun to lay a siege on your church. Tell your prophet we are not prosecuting him,” Komolafe said.
Meanwhile the General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osayintolu, has told the court that his agency was denied prompt access to the accident scene.
According to Oke-Osayintolu, had LASEMA been given immediate access to the accident scene, the casuality figure would have been less.
No fewer than 116 persons died while many others were injured.
Oke-Osanyitolu, who emphasised that time was important to rescue operation, said his team were denied entrance for nothing less than one hour by the security personel and crowd at the entrance of the church.
The coroner adjourned sitting till today.