A coroner on Wednesday said a megachurch run by popular Nigerian preacher TB Joshua was criminally negligent and should be prosecuted after a building collapse killed 116, 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,” 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 (SCOAN) on September 12 last year.
Eighty-one of the dead were South African visitors to the Lagos church.
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.
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.
Supporters of Joshua gathered outside the court in anticipation of the ruling but there was again no sign of the preacher and televangelist.
Komolafe noted that of the 32 witnesses called, 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.”