Lagos – Nigeria launched a court inquest on
Friday into the collapse of a church guesthouse
in September that killed at least 115 people
including 84 South Africans and sparked a
diplomatic spat between the two countries.
South African officials accused Nigerian
authorities of not doing enough to investigate
the Sept. 12 accident at the church compound in
Lagos of one of Nigeria’s most influential
evangelical Christian preachers, T.B. Joshua.
The accident occurred as three more storeys
were being added to the two-storey church
building. South Africa said Nigerian authorities
did not react quickly enough to rescue those
trapped under the rubble and complains that
Nigeria has still not released the bodies of
victims for repatriation and burial.
Pretoria also called for a formal investigation.
The Lagos State Federal High Court was
expected to hear evidence from several parties,
including Nigeria’s National Emergency
Management Agency (NEMA), a pathologist
representing the Lagos State Chief Medical
Director, a representative of the South African
government, and the church itself.
The presiding judge adjourned the hearing until
Oct. 28, requesting that all the parties provide
written witness statements.
Nigeria has a history of building collapses due to
shoddy construction, with 130 reported incidents
from 2007 to 2012 in Lagos alone, its vast and
largest city of 21 million people.
Joshua, scheduled to testify at the court on Nov.
5, was not present but fans gathered outside,
some with placards reading: “T.B Joshua hold
your peace – we are your voice” and “A collapsed
building will never crush (you) into rubble!”
“We are here to show solidarity to prophet T.B
Joshua, he’s our helper and the man has been
doing so much for us,” said Lagos resident
Austin Chima, adding that the court should judge
what happened as an accident and Joshua
should not be blamed.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Nigeria,
Lulu Louis Mnguni, was also in court on Friday
and said his country was hoping the bodies
would be identified.
“After that, death certificates can be written,
repatriation can take place, so that our people
can be buried,” he said.