Five persons and three firms allegedly involved in the March 2016 Lekki building collapse which killed five persons have been arraigned before a Lagos High Court, sitting in the Igbosere area.
They were arraigned following Justice Sybil Nwaka’s dismissal of an application challenging the competence of the charges filed against them.
The first to fifth defendants are Managing Director of Lekki Gardens Estate Limited Richard Nyong, Shola Olumofe, the engineer that supervised the collapsed structure Henry Taiwo Odofin, Omolabake Mortune and Omotilewa Oluwatosin Joseph.
Others are three limited liability companies: Lekki Gardens Estate Ltd, Get Too Rich Investment Limited a.k.a. GT Rich Investment Limited and HT Insight Solution Limited.
The defendants were brought before Justice Nwaka last May 24, but the charge against them could not be read following an application challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
Similar applications on June 1, 14 and 29, also stalled their arraignment.
At the resumption of proceedings today, Justice Nwaka dismissed an application by second defendant Shola Olumofe challenging the competence of the charge.
Olumofe, through his counsel George Oguntade (SAN), argued on June 24 that the charge was defective for not having the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) seal.
But upholding the argument of Attorney-General Of Lagos Adeniji Kazeem, who is the lead prosecution counsel, the judge held that the absence of a seal was an irregularity that could be regularised.
She said processes filed without the NBA stamp are deemed not to be properly served, “but may be deemed valid by a judge.”
The judge then stood down the matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) T.K. Shitta-Bey to affix her stamp on the charge.
This cleared the way for the charge to be read to the defendants.
They were accused of one count of failure to obtain a building permit and five counts of involuntary manslaughter.
According to the charge, the alleged offences contravene Section 75(1) of the Urban & Regional Planning Development Law of Lagos State, 2015 and Section 224 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
The defendants pleaded not guilty.
Kazeem then noted that by their arraignment the defendants’ previous bail had been revoked.
He said, “Following their arraignment, the defendants are now properly before the court. The bail that the defendants previously enjoy stand revoked. However, we are very aware that except for the second defendants, the others have been cooperating.”
Kazeem urged the court to impose bail conditions on the second defendant that would ensure his appearance for trial.
This was not opposed by the defendants.
In a bench ruling, Justice Nwaka allowed the defendants except the second defendant, Shola Olumofe, to continue enjoying the bail earlier granted them.
She ordered all defendants to deposit their passports in the court’s possession within 24 hours.
The judge admitted Olumofe to bail in the sum of N100, 000 with two sureties in the like sum and ordered that he be remanded in prison custody till he perfects his bail condition
She adjourned till October 26 for trial.
Tragedy struck on March 10, 2016, when a six-storey building under construction by Lekki Gardens in Lekki area of the state collapsed and killed several people.
The government listed the victims to include William Akpati, Kazeem Ilesanmi, Raphael Ezeh, Saminu Umar and Sunday Ezeh.
According to the charge, the developer added additional floors to the building against what was approved by the government for construction.