Court arraigns nine over 2016 building collapse in Lagos
The Managing Director of Lekki Gardens Estate Limited, Mr. Nyong Robert, six other persons and four limited liability companies, who were indicted over a building collapsed which killed five people and leaving many injured, on March 8, 2016, were yesterday arraigned an Igbosere High Court, Lagos.
They are facing a six counts charge bordering on failure to obtain building permit and approval, and involuntary manslaughter.
Those docked before Justice Nwaka alongside Nyong Richard are: Odofin Henry Taiwo, the engineer that supervised the collapsed structures, Omolabake Mortune, and Omotilewa Oluwatosin Joseph.
The limited liability companies are: Lekki Gardens Estate Limited, Get Too Rich Investment Limited a.K.a. GT Rich Investment Limited, and HT Insight Solution Limited, which were represented by Nyong Robert and Odofin Taiwo respectively.
When the matter came up for arraignment, the second, sixth and 10th defendants Sola Olumofe, Marius Agwu and Artech Insigna Limited were not in court.
However, the pleas of the defendants were not taken, as the second defendant informed the court about his pending application which seeks to dispense with his appearance before the court, and a preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to try him.
Counsel to the second defendant, informed the court that his client need not to appear before the court until the determination of his two applications, as doing so would mean that he has submitted himself to the Court’s jurisdiction, which is one of the legs of his applications.
Responding, counsel representing Lagos State, Mr. Kazeem Adeniji, who is Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, told the court that the business is the arraignment of the defendants, and that it is after they have submitted themselves to the court that they can then raised objection to their trial.
The AG added that the operational law guiding criminal proceedings is Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State (ACJL).
Adding that Section 235 of ACJL stated clearly that if a defendant refuses to appear before the court to take his plea, and did not give sufficient reason as to the cause of his absence, the ACJL empowers the trial judge to issue a bench warrant against the defendants.
Citing plethora of authorities to support his applications, he stated that the Supreme Court said the best time to challenge the jurisdiction is before the plea is taken.
Adeniji therefore urged the court to issue bench warrant against the second, sixth and 10th defendants who were not in court.
After the hearing of the second defendant’s application, Counsel to Nyong, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) applied to court to allow his client continue to enjoy the earlier bail granted him by a Chief Magistate’s Court, where he was earlier charged to for the same allegation.
In the same vain, lawyers representing other defendants aligned themselves with Olanipekun’s submissions.
After listened to counsel from both side, Justice Nwaka, adjourned the matter till June 1, for ruling on the application to dispense with the appearance of the second defendant. While ordered that the other defendants continue to enjoy the bail earlier granted them by the court and police.
Lagos State in charge number LD/3808c/2017, alleged in the statement of offence that the defendants failed to obtain building permit and other building approval which is contrary to section 75(1) of the Urban and Regional Planning And Development Law, CH. U2,Vol. 10 of Lagos State, 2015, when between August 2014, and March 2016, at house H15, Horizon 1 Extention, Ikate Elegunshi, in the lagos, did commence and complete construction of six storey building without building permit and approval.
They were also accused of commuter involuntary manslaughter contrary to Section 224 and punishable under Section 229 of the Criminal Laws CH. C17, Vol. 3, Laws of Lagos State, 2015, when between August 2014, and March 2016, at house H15, Horizon 1 Extention, Ikate Elegunshi, in the Lagos, commence and complete construction of six storey building with gross negligence and or reckless disregard for human life leading to the death of followings: Williams Akpati, Kazeem Ilesanmi, Raphael Ezeh, Saminu Umar, and Sunday Ezeh.