TB Joshua's church 'criminally negligent' over building collapse
Coroner Oyetade Komolafe made the finding at a hearing on Wednesday into last year’s tragedy.
“The church must be investigated and prosecuted for not obtaining the relevant approval before embarking on the construction of the building,” he said.
“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.
No planning permission
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 controversial preacher and televangelist.
No show by Joshua
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.”
Tension between SA and Nigeria
The incident caused diplomatic tension between South Africa and Nigeria, as the government said it was struggling to get answers about the tragedy and recover the bodies of all the 84 South African victims.
“The Nigerians have flatly refused our search and rescue missions, the same way they initially refused international assistance during the search for the missing girls,” said a senior South African government official involved in the mission to bring the bodies of citizens home at the time.
The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) has said it would not allow Nigerian preacher TB Joshua into the country, saying it was engaging with the department of international relations and cooperation to make sure they do not issue him with a South African visa.
Since the building collapse, Joshua has come under fire for not addressing the incident, but instead focusing on a plane repeatedly flying low above the building an hour before its collapse and reading out a message from an alleged Boko Haram would-be bomber seeking conversion.
In 2011, Joshua was third on the Forbes list of Nigeria’s five richest pastors, with a net worth approximated at close to $15-million.
Known for performing controversial “miracle” healings, Joshua attracts a large South African following that has included visits from South African politicians such as Winnie Madkizela-Mandela and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, as well as the late Springbok rugby players Ruben Kruger and Wium Basson. – AFP.