Lagos State Government on Wednesday began the trial of 10 persons including the Managing Director of Lekki Garden Estate, Nyong Richard before a Lagos high court sitting at Igbosere over the collapse, last year, of one of their buildings in Lagos which claimed five lives and left many injured.
Specifically, on the list of the defendants were six persons and four limited liability companies.
All of them who were earlier indicted over the building collapse were Wednesday docked at the Igbosere High Court, Lagos, presided over by Justice Cybil Nwanka on a six-count charge bordering on failure to obtain building permit and involuntary manslaughter.
Those docked before Justice Nwaka were: Nyong Richard, Managing Director of Lekki Gardens Homes Limited, Odofin Henry Taiwo, the engineer that supervised the collapsed structures, Omolabake Mortune, and Omotilewa Oluwatosin Joseph.
The limited liability companies were 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.
Although those present in court were all docked, their pleas could not be taken.
This is because the 2nd, 6th and 10th defendants– Sola Olumofe, Marius Agwu and Artech Insigna Limited were not in court.
Counsel to the second defendant had informed the court about his client”s 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 needed not to appear before the court until the determination of his two applications, as doing so would amount to submitted himself to the Court’s jurisdiction, which is one of the legs of his applications.
Citing plethora of authorities to support his submission,, he stated that the Supreme Court has said the best time to challenge jurisdiction is before the plea is taken.
Responding, counsel representing Lagos State, Mr. Kazeem Adeniji, who is Attorney-General and Commissioner forJustice, told the court that the business of the day is arraignment of the defendants, adding that it is after accised have submitted themselves to the court that they can then raised objection to their trial.
The AGF added that the operational law guiding criminal proceedings in Lagos State is the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State (ACJL).
He added 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 trial judge is empowered to issue a bench warrant against the defendant.
Adeniji therefore urged the court to issue bench warrant against the 2nd, 6th and 10th defendants who were not in court.
After listening to counsel from both sides, Justice Nwaka, adjourned the matter till June 1, for ruling on the application to dispense with the appearance of the second defendant.
hile she also ordered that the defendants should continue to enjoy the bail earlier granted them by the court and police.
Lagos State has 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 committing 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.